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To support the war effort, the manufacture of goods which were not vital was suspended, factories throughout Britain were converted to produce goods for the war effort, such as uniforms, boots, planes, ships, weapons, supplies for troops etc.
Through out Britain men and women worked in specialist factories making bombs and ammunition in the Royal Ordanace Factories. These were as follows:
- 1 Woolwich London. Engineering/Filling
- 2 Enfield Middlesex. Engineering
- 3 Birtley Co. Durham. Engineering
- 4 Blackburn Lancs. Engineering
- 5 Cardiff Glam. Engineering
- 6 Cardonald Glasgow. Engineering
- 7 Dalmuir Dumbartonshire. Engineering
- 8 Fazakerley Liverpool. Engineering
- 9 Leeds Yorkshire. Engineering
- 10 Hooton Cheshire. Engineering
- 11 Newport Monmouthshire. Engineering
- 12 Radcliffe Lancs. Engineering
- 13 Radway Green Cheshire. Small Arms Ammunition
- 14 Maltby Rotherham. Engineering
- 15 Wigan Cheshire. Engineering
- 16 Patricroft Manchester. Engineering
- 17 Ellesmere Port Cheshire. Engineering
- 18 Hayes Middlesex. Engineering
- 19 Poole Dorset. Engineering
- 20 Blackpole Worcestershire. Small Arms Ammunition
- 21 Spennymoor County Durham. Small Arms Ammunition
- 22 Steeton Yorkshire. Small Arms Ammunition
- 23 Nottingham Notts. Engineering
- 24 Theale Berkshire. Engineering
- 25 Hirwaun Glamorgan. Engineering
- 31 Waltham Abbey Essex. Explosive
- 32 Bishopton Renfrewshire. Explosive
- 33 Irvine Ayrshire. Explosive
- 34 Pembrey Camarthenshire. Explosive
- 35 Wrexham Denbighshire. Explosive
- 36 Drigg Cumberland. Explosive
- 37 Bridgwater Somerset. Explosive
- 38 Ranskill Notts. Explosive
- 51 Hereford Herefordshire. Filling
- 52 Chorley Lancs. Filling
- 53 Bridgend Glamorgan. Filling
- 54 Glascoed Usk, Monmouth. Filling
- 55: Swynnerton. Staffordshire. Filling
- 56 Risley Lancs. Filling
- 57 Kirkby Liverpool. Filling
- 58 Thorp Arch Yorkshire. Filling
- 59: Aycliffe County Durham. Filling
- 60 Rearsby Leicester. Filling
- 61 Burghfield Reading. Filling
- 62 Healey Hall Rochdale. Filling
- 63 Ruddington Notts. Filling
- 64 Walsall Staffs. Filling
- 65 Elstow Bedford. Filling
- 66 Featherstone Wolverhampton. Filling
Existing factories and works were adapted to manufacture goods for the war effort, making everything from uniforms to fuel to aircraft and tanks. Normal peacetime production was suspecnded resulting in a shortage of many every day goods.
My father, Eric Legg, spent his war commuting between our home in Newcastle upon Tyne and Coventry. There he was involved in assembling Radar sets for the planes. As you well know, Coventry was a favourite target of the Luftwaffe. Eric did not survive long after the war. He worked for GEC before and after the war. Do you have any data on a factory such as the one he worked in? I still have some of the tools he would have used during his time in Coventry.
Having been born in the naval port of Portsmouth, my father being in the navy, my mother being an Ex Wren, and having watched the young Engine Room Artificer Apprentices coming home on leave in their smart uniforms I suppose it was inevitable that my ambition was to be a "Tiffie". I was nearly thwarted in my ambition when having passed the national examination for entry as Naval and Dockyard Apprentices, fate took a hand; I was playing tennis on a grass court following a heavy shower when I slipped and suffered a compound fracture of my arm. Unfortunately there were complications, which resulted in a two week stay in hospital just when the medical examinations for entry into the navy were taking place. The naval authorities were adamant that all artificer apprentice vacancies would be allocated and if one did not attend the medical examination then one could not be accepted in that entry. However, as a concession they were prepared to offer me an apprenticeship in the dockyard in one of the few junior trades that were available, namely as a joiner.
Time to make a decision, I still wanted to join the navy, some of my friends who had failed the "apprenticeship" examination had joined up as seamen and that at the time was tempting but I was eventually persuaded that it might be better to join the navy after completing an apprenticeship as a joiner. So began a not so happy period of my life, leaving school and old school friends to begin work in the joiners shop in Portsmouth Dockyard.
Then as often happens, fate stepped in again, my father who was an officers' steward was chief steward to an admiral, whom I had met on several occasions and I had told him how unfairly I thought I had been treated. Then everything changed, I never really knew if he had anything to do with it, but he was appointed as Naval Recruitment Director at the Admiralty and within a couple of months I received notice that I was being transferred from a joiner apprentice to a fitter and turner apprentice and what's more to a Naval Engineering Artificer apprentice still trained in Portsmouth Dockyard under a new scheme recently introduced to increase the engineering strength in the navy. My prayers had been answered, working in the factory doing a job I enjoyed, attending the Dockyard School, making many new friends and joining up again with old ones, the only cloud on the horizon was the advent of war. The threat had been with us for months then on a lovely sunny day, I had been filling sandbags for use as protection around the windows of the Royal Hospital, when it became reality, we had declared war against Germany and so began the long struggle.
On another beautiful sunny day, with a clear blue sky, Tuesday the twelfth of August 1941, my head was clearing after celebrating my birthday on the day before, suddenly the peace was shattered as the sirens started their wailing warning of the approach of enemy aircraft. I was working on a Dutch cruiser but at the time I was on my way to the canteen for my lunch break and walking through Portsmouth Dockyard was not the safest place to be at that time so I hurried as fast as my legs could carry me to the nearest shelter. That happened to be attached to the front wall of the factory, which in itself must have been, as was soon confirmed, a prime target. There was very little time between the siren sounding and the dropping of the first bombs, and I was still out of breath when the shelter seemed to jump in the air and there was dust everywhere. A bomb had landed just outside the shelter, a direct hit on the First Aid post, killing all the medics.
The time of the raid was just a couple of minutes to noon, if it had been timed a few minutes later there would have been hundreds of dockyard men pouring out of the gates and they would never had been able to find enough shelters. Portsmouth had already been attacked on July 11th but this damage was widespread, on this day an armada of some 100 Junkers Ju88s accompanied by about 120 Messerschmitt Bf110s and 25 Bf109s attacked England. Some 70 Ju88s bombed Portsmouth slipping through the balloon barrage.
One of the German fighter pilots was later to write "The Ju88s curved to the right and then dived down on their target. It was an incredible sight to see the heavy twin-engined bombers dive down steeply together with the fighters that had to cover them. Huge smoke clouds and dust covered the target area - nothing was left standing where those heavy bombs hit, then the bombers clawed for height back towards the channel. Our mission had been accomplished - tension ebbed away".
At the time it was a question of living from day to day and for me I had survived another day.
There were to be other days and nights like that throughout the continual raids on Portsmouth and one particular harrowing night when taking Peggy my girl friend, and later to become my wife, home we were forced to make detours around bombed areas, but worse was to come, on turning into her road the first few houses, including hers were just a heap of rubble. One cannot describe the relief when people including her family, emerged from the brick bomb shelter, which had survived the blast.
Then came, after four years of being in the navy without a uniform, the great day when I had to report to R.N. Barracks to be kitted out, but what was even better I could now wear my No 1 suit which was bought for the big day. Before being sent to a ship it was felt that we should spend about six weeks in "square bashing", using a rifle, swimming test in full kit, and even boxing which I hated, the only bout that I won was when my opponent was disqualified for a low blow. I suppose, looking back that it was inexperience and lack of imagination that caused one to want to go to sea at such a time, but there was no turning back now, I was drafted to H.M.S. Cairo, originally a 5 inch gun cruiser but converted in 1938 in to a 4 inch anti-aircraft cruiser, primarily to be employed in the middle of convoys to protect them against air attacks.
I worked at David Brown's Gear Works - month on days and month's about on nights, grinding gears for airplanes and tanks, it was a doddle of a job but fellows I knew who worked there used to grumble saying it was damned hard work. The sirens went off one night, I laid down in one of the gear boxes and when I looked up the sky light was wide open, I could see the moon shining. I expected a bomb falling any minute but it turned out to be a false alarm.
Mrs B Boothroyd
If you undertook War work we would love to hear from you.
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As 2005 is the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two, we are celebrating by extending the Wartime Memories Project to collect as much material as possible. If you or any of your family or friends would like to contribute we would love to hear from you.
If you live in the UK we may be able to arrange to have our professional video crew record the telling of wartime stories, to create a lasting resource which will be used for education.
We would love to hear from anyone who would be interested in taking part.
Those who served in the Factories.
- Phyllis M Allen. Shoe factory, Leicester. Read her story
- Mrs Armstrong. Redheugh Gas Works, Gateshead
- Mrs B Boothroyd. David Brown's Gear Works Read her story
- Mrs Brittan. Bristol Aircraft Factory.Read her Story
- Eric Legg. Radar assembly, Coventry. Read his Story
- Mrs Isabella McMillan. Redheugh Gas Works, Gateshead
- Don Short. Portsmouth Dock Yard. Read his story
- Violette Szabo, George Cross, Croix de Guerre with Star. Moreden/Acton aircraft factory.Read her story
If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.
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