Local War Production

Hi all,

Hoping this is okay to post, as it’s not entirely an ammunition related post, however, has some sort of relation! I’m hoping someone might help to clarify for me…
I’m a local and military historian, and I was having a discussion with a fellow local historian about the Second World War production in my town of Exmouth, Devon (UK). In Exmouth, was an engineering factory called ‘Pankhurst Auto Works’, which made car and tractor engine parts. It was a very small factory, with only 11 staff employed at the firm in WW2.

In a local histories book, it has only four lines about the WW2 production of the factory. It has me scratching my head, as the ‘gun parts’ and ‘munitions’ parts of it seems very loose and vague! I also can’t find anything about Pankhurst Engineering on any bit of ordnance or documentation anywhere, other than these four lines! (see attached).

I don’t have access to the wealth of documentation that a lot of members here have access to. Can anyone help me to pinpoint any existence of Pankhurst Engineering (or ‘Pankhurst Auto Works’) in war production lists?

Many thanks,

Simon

A multitude of small mechanical workshops in Britain were “conscripted” into war production, rather than
Taking their machinery and workers.
These small suppliers made everything from brass buckles for P37 webbing, to small turned parts for small quantity supplies for special orders.
Eg, Basset-Lowke, a model steam engine builder and retailer, made small suitcase sized steam generators for radio battery chargers to be dropped into occupied Europe with OSS radio operators.
Many of these small shops formed or stamped parts for the Sten Gun, also known as “the plumbers delight”.
An auto-body and repair works could have done a lot of sheet metal work, as well as spray painting etc., or been locally contracted to supply repair facilities for Gov’t civilian vehicles.( private owned vehicles were “on blocks” for the duration, their tyres having gone for the war effort, and petrol was severely rationed to essential services only.)

The National Archives ( formerly the Public Records Office) should have details, even down to individual supply contracts and costs.

Doc AV.

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Simon,

There’s no trace of Pankhurst in the list of Small Arms Components manufacturers.
No apparent monogram or trademark (in a military context) for them.
No mention in the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department list.
However, the last two are far from complete.

They wouldn’t be making gunparts for Woolwich Arsenal, unless they were parts for very big guns and that sort of work would be sub-contracted to well established engineering concerns.

Researching Admiralty contracts, unless for the likes of warships, is nigh on impossible, the records are not available. The Admiralty did their own procurement from the Great War onwards and as yet, if the records still exist, they have not been released.

From what I’ve read online Sparex Ltd at Exeter Airport is an off-shoot of Pankhurst, it’s possible they’ve got a company historian, official or otherwise who could assist you.

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TimG

Any idea where I could read a copy of the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department list?

Regards

AlanD
Sydney

The problem with the Ministry of Supply order and contract ledgers is that not all are available, they’re huge and they’re handwritten in chronological order with at best a partial index. When I was searching through them the biggest problem was deciphering the scratchy ink’n’nib-pen entries … the contributing hands were many and most were not experts at the art. Here’s a sample of an index page from the Electrical Equipment order book;

Peter

Peter,

You obviously haven’t been studying them for long enough!
However, I know what you mean, but I find that after a while I become ‘tuned’ to the writing and it’s a lot easier. Also, with the example you’ve given I know most of the contractors from my own research, which makes ‘partials’ a lot easier.

On the other hand I’ve got Majendie’s proposal for the 1875 Explosives Act which is in the most elegant cursive script and can barely read a word.

Hi Chaps,

Many thanks for all the comments, very interesting!

TimG -

There’s no trace of Pankhurst in the list of Small Arms Components manufacturers.
No apparent monogram or trademark (in a military context) for them.
No mention in the Naval Ordnance Inspection Department list.
However, the last two are far from complete.

They wouldn’t be making gunparts for Woolwich Arsenal, unless they were parts for very big guns and that sort of work would be sub-contracted to well established engineering concerns.

That is what I’ve been thinking, also, but wanted pick the brains of the experts! Always thought such a minute workshop being selected to make components for the likes of Woolwich Arsenal was a bit of a ‘shaky’ statement.

With all this info in mind, I’m very doubtful that the paragraph in the local histories book will be correct (as I initially suspected). Of course, Pankhurst would have had a less exotic production line for the war effort!

Many thanks,

Best regards,

Simon