AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE
is a page within the www.staffshomeguard.co.uk website.
see full contents, go to SITE
Works was a prime target for Luftwaffe attack with its
extensive ammunition, metal and other production facilities
and its vast workforce.
official history of the Company states:
From the declaration of war, Kynoch Works effectively operated to government orders, constituting a crucial part ot the war effort. Roland Finch, one of the two managing directors, moved to Witton to take charge of the site with the wartime office of factory controller: this gave him exceptional powers to requisition labour and materials and to dispense with peacetime regulations. He was instructed to keep the factories working twenty-four hours a day, and to ignore air raid warnings unless the site - a prime target for the Luftwaffe - was directly threatened. Only then could the thousands of workers be sent to their shelters.
To ascertain whether the works was in immediate danger was a matter of skill and judgement. This task was entrusted by Finch to Michael Clapham (later Sir Michael, and a Chairman of the Company), then in charge of the Kynoch Press, who operated from a tower at the top of the Research Department. He describes the first raid when the threat was direct:
I catch the throb of an isolated plane well east of the main attack. Ten seconds later I'm reporting to control that it is pretty near our line. Another twenty seconds and I've got the line exactly. 'Tower to Control. This one's right on line. I'm putting them down.' I press the button as I speak, and hear the klaxon blaring in the nearby factories as people drop their work and troop to the shelters. 'Control. The line of approach is east of the strip mill, about Holdford Road gate. And it's pretty near direct for here.' This is the gut-twisting moment of an attack: have I given them time enough? If I don't hear a bomb whistling down in the fifty-five seconds after I have pressed the button, everybody will have had a full minute to get to shelter before the explosion; and a minute is enough - on rehearsals. It was an immense relief when Longmore (in charge of the control centre) called up: 'Tower. Sixty seconds gone.' Ten seconds later I heard the familiar whine. 'Control. Bombs away.' But now there was a novel worry: for the first time in all our raids, the bombing line passed straight through me. One bomb exploded just outside our Holdford Road gate, then another. Then a menacing silence as the third was due...
Between 1940 and 1943, Kynoch Works received forty-seven high explosive bombs and over four thousand incendiaries. Yet only two people were killed (in both cases because they did not follow the correct procedures) and the disruption to manufacturing was kept to a minimum. Much of the credit for Witton's wartime contribution must go to Roland Finch, a legendary figure with his tirelessness, blunt manner of speaking, sense of humour, scruffy appearance and foul pipe; and to his deputy, G. H. Corner, whose thoroughness gained him the respect, though not necessarily the liking, of his colleagues.
© IMI plc 2002
The attacks were
of course not limited to daylight. One young woman employed
on ammunition production was Daisy May Johnson, née
Pratt, (1915-2003). The hazards of her work, which were
by no means restricted to Luftwaffe activity alone, are
described in a section of an interesting family website, Our
Pratt Family and War ; an extract is quoted below:
She told many stories of her time working at Kynoch. One very sad story of how a fellow worker was killed when a cap wasn't put squarely on a shell and the operator was blown out of the shed. They worked in small sheds for that reason so if a problem occurred only one small group would be affected.
She and another girl had to fetch powder from the arsenal in a two handed pail carrying it along board walks back to their shed. They had to change their clothes completely for work passing through a clean area. They wore rubber soled overshoes and even had to have brass hair clips, as steel was considered hazardous since if a clip should fall into the machinery it could cause a spark.
They took turns to go up on to the roof to watch for possible air raids, The search lights would swoop out a circle across the sky to signal the sirens and the watcher on the roof would sound an alarm in the factory gaining a few extra moments to seek shelter.
The pay was good with extra danger money overalls provided and laundered and every shift they had to drink a milky drink to counter the chemical reaction of yellowing skin. (She wasn't sure what exactly was in the drink). Even with the drink she joked that she looked more like a buttercup than a Daisy. (The girls at the Bridgend Munitions factory were known as WelshDaffodils for the same reason).
© The McMullin Family 2007
The Works Home Guard
involvement in night-time aerial attacks is described
in the 1942 'B' Company report (recorded in full elsewhere
within this website):
During the winters of 1940 and 1941 the district suffered a series of very heavy aerial bombing attacks, in the course of which incendiary and high-explosive bombs fell within the factory precincts, necessitating prompt action on the part of the defence organisation, in which the Home Guard played no small part. Incendiaries then presented no serious difficulty, some thousands of which fell one night, and the Home Guard not having enough spades or other implements, just used their steel helmets for shovelling damp earth to smother bombs which had fallen in dangerous situations. These raids invariably took place at night, and whether it was the location of an exploded H.E. or the extinguishing of incendiary bombs and fires, the Home Guard members vied with each other in their eagerness to be of help, often having to be forcibly restrained from endangering themselves in their efforts to assist in the work.