01 May 2012
Graham Priest’s tribute to the factory workers producing 8 inches of ‘cold steel’ in defence of the realm - additional images are published here. ...
The contraction of the British economy by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2011 highlighted the fact that the country no longer makes and exports enough industrial goods to reduce the national debt.
Politicians in the Second World War faced a bigger military crisis but instead of alienating their working population created the Land Army, ‘Bevin Boys’ and an ethos that extended to the other civilian occupations that ‘did their bit’. Perhaps the same attitude is needed again?
With experience from the Great War, strategic planners realised that ‘total war’ required the full involvement of the population to supplement specialist companies expanded to meet the military requirements of the islands. Peacetime production rates needed too much time or raw materials to replace the rapid attrition of equipment. Known facilities were also vulnerable to enemy air attack or land occupation. If manufacture and assembly activities were concentrated the entire output might be lost by a single hostile action.
During mobilisation in 1939 the Ministry of Supply identified locations with the potential for military production. Unlike now, most British settlements had a range of firms and companies involved in heavy and light engineering, carpentry and joinery, leather and textile manufacture and other trades.Some skilled labour, mainly male, was lost by the recruitment of Forces personnel but this was balanced by the closure of markets for non-vital domestic products. Analysis of the processes and components required for essential equipment showed that non-specialist manufacturers could be used. Top priority matériel continued to be made by established companies but economies with raw materials and better use of manpower was encouraged. Where less vital parts could be removed from the major production facilities output of key elements might be increased.
Additional pictures to the printed article
Figure 6: A workman assembling a No.4 Rifle at a R.O.F. (H.M.S.O., Manpower)
Figure 7: The Singer Manufacturing Company, Kilbowie, Clydebank, Scotland, post 1933. The clock tower was a local landmark. (Clydebank District Libraries and Museums Dept. A2125)