A company director pours his heart out about war time struggles in a dramatically touching letter we were lucky enough to receive from a reader of Grace’s Guide.
Sir Alan George Clark was born the son of a businessman in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1898. By the time of his death in 1962, he had helped and watched Plessey grow from a struggling company employing a handful if people, to a multi-million pound global organisation.
He wrote to a Mr C. J. Stewart of the Ministry of Aircraft Production in December 1941 in a dramatic state of despair:
Mr Stewart’s reply:
Plessey contributed greatly for the war effort, producing many varieties of components and equipment from shell cases to radio receivers. Despite the bombing of its Ilford site, Plessey built a new factory at Swindon and opened several other shadow factories around the U.K. They even converted a tunnel, built as an extension of the London Underground Central Line, into a munitions factory, and their wartime workforce was doubled from 5,000 in 1939 to over 10,000 in the early 1940s.
These personal letters don’t only give us a rare and incredible insight into the terrible economical impacts companies faced in wartime Britain; they take you back to Christmas 1941 and one man’s desperate struggle for himself and his company’s future.
Visit Grace’s Guide to find more historical treasures from Britain’s industrial past.
We’re approaching 30,000 biography pages on Grace’s Guide…
Which means there are even more engineer’s records you can freely access on the site, whether for historical and reference studies, or family history research.
Since digitizing our publications of Who’s Who in Engineering (1921-22) and The Engineer’s Who’s Who (1939), we’re busy uploading up to one hundred more engineers a day, so it’s worth checking back now and then to follow our progress.
View The Engineer’s Who’s Who (1939) or Who’s Who in Engineering (1921-22) now to find out names you may recognise.
Can you help?
If you have any family records, memories, old photographs or accounts of any of our engineers or companies, we want to hear from you. Please get in touch with anything you’d like to contribute via our contact form here.
We’ve updated our records on The Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
You can now access over 130 years of material on the Institution of Mechanical Engineers with no charge or restrictions on Grace’s Guide.
To date, we’ve collected and digitised proceedings of the IMechE from 1847 to the early 1970s detailing everything from new members and council members to visits of company works write-ups. Our digital archive also includes approximately 5,600 obituaries on past members of the institution, all of which we have created landing pages for.
Go to The Institution of Mechanical Engineers Archive Page.
The great Bruce Ward died on the 10th August 2015. He was renowned for his knowledge of the history of engineering and in particular to do with Cranes. From the early days he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Grace’s Guide project and his words of encouragement, introductions to others of a like mind and the publicity he gave us were greatly appreciated. Although some of his opinions in his writing could be controversial, his ability with words always made for interesting reading. He told me once that right from an early age he had an ambition to write and his talent for this always came through.
I had the great pleasure to meet with him earlier this year in his home town of Muroya, NSW, and although clearly not a well man, he was fascinating to talk with and I felt it would be easy to spend many hours in his company discussing engineering without any fear of tiring of him or the subject. As we were leaving he pulled up in his pick-up (Ute) which was stacked high with engineering books he was gifting to our project. There will never be another Bruce Ward. (Andrew Tweedie)
The Spitfire was a masterpiece of aerodynamic engineering, that adapted to every challenge the Second War World hurled in it’s way. It’s success shines through history, with numerous propeller designs and sixteen different versions , from reconnaissance planes to Seafires. It was the only fighter in production before, through and after the war, and around 20,300 produced for the RAF in total.
"Reginald Mitchell’s Spitfire fighter, is now a part of Britain’s heritage – history itself. Our history. And when I say 'our', I don’t mean a common market 'our', but a “Britain I’m proud of it our"…” …
"...when we heard the familiar wang of the Merlin engine – an unforgettable noise – followed by the victory roll, I said to myself – "there’s a little bit of me up there" and there must have been many others who felt the very same way..."
Bert Martin wrote down his feelings towards the production of Spitfires as he recalled his life memories in a short but touchingly detailed essay on the famed fighter planes. A talented and self-taught mechanical engineer, Bert worked for Follands, and was responsible for the Spitfire tail portion in the 1930′s.
His son Tony, has contacted Grace’s Guide with this fascinating and intimate account detailing the hey-day of Britain’s famed Spitfire.
Read Bert’s detailed account –‘The Spitfire’ now online on Grace’s Guide.
Nuclear power stations aren’t generally considered as places of beauty, or sites of inspiration with many environmentalists opposing their existence at all in light of renewable energy trends. But last week we received an e-mail regarding Hinkley Point A Nuclear Power Station in Somerset, UK, that shed a different light on industrial power plants, with a refreshing story alongside.
Alan Sorrell was a well-known member of the Royal Watercolour Society, and built a strong reputation for himself painting archaeological illustrations, which he produced for the Ministry of Works, books, museums and the Illustrated London News. He was employed as an artist to record the construction of Hinkley Point A, from it’s beginnings , right through to its completion – a job that included climbing the great Goliath crane 250ft high to gain the best views across the site.
We’ve been very lucky to view some of these sketches, a few of which were published in ‘The Sphere‘ during the 1960’s. Unlike the many technical drawings and dark photographs printed in The Engineer, they certainly offer a different perspective of the power plant, which has now shut down and been decommissioned.
His family have been in touch, and are eager to locate the original sketches of his work, so please do get in touch with Grace’s Guide, if you have any more information on their whereabouts.
2014 was a great year for the project and some of our frequent visitors will have noticed or read about key progressions within Grace’s Guide as they happened last year.
Here’s a reminder of some of our key events from 2014:
January – This time last year, (and after nearly seven years of hard work), we reached charity status - for the advancement of the education of the public in the subject of the industrial and engineering history of the UK.
April – Then we hit over 100,000 pages in April, achieving a great milestone for the project and the content being made available to freely read and use everyday.
June – By early summer we had completed photographing the journals of The Engineer to provide perhaps the only complete digital version of The Engineer from 1856– 1960 available today.
October – We re-launched this blog last autumn to reach out to our readers and connect you to some of our greatest pages.
2015 is set to be another good year, so please get involved if you want to be a part of our volunteer team, contact us if you can add to any of our history pages, or simply keep supporting and returning to the site to find more exciting pieces of history and hidden gems about our industrial past.
Following on from the last blog post, the team has just uploaded two early bound volumes of Mechanics’ Magazine, that were kindly loaned to us by Mr Jeal of Devizes.
Now available on Grace’s Guide in PDF format:
Volume 19 of 1832-33
Volume 20 of 1833-34
We’re always looking for early books, volumes and magazines, so please do get in touch if you own anything you’re willing to loan or send in that can help us with the project.
The team at Grace’s Guide are working on a few lovely additions to the site at the moment – the early volumes of ‘The Engineering Times’ and Mechanics Magazine and the first volume of ‘The Autocar’.
Malcom Jeal – an established member of The Society of Automotive Historians in Britain (SAHB) kindly got in touch with us quite recently introducing a collection of very rare and immaculate bound volumes of historic reference books.
We were kindly loaned ‘The Autocar’ volume 1, ‘The Engineering Times’ volumes 1 and 2, and a couple of early volumes of ‘Mechanics’ Magazine’, which we are currently processing.
As always, we are so grateful for contributions like these and the people behind them who kindly loan precious books for our digital archives. Rare volumes, perhaps never publicly available before, are then preserved in our digital archive and reproduced online for your pleasure and convenience.
So please do get in touch if you feel you can contribute to Grace’s Guide and we will always strive to reply to you.
We are still processing Mechanics’ Magazine journals at the moment but have a look at the volumes now available to read online below:
The Autocar 1895-1896 Volume 1
The Engineering Times 1898-1899 Dec-Jun Volume 1
The Engineering Times 1899-1900 Jul-Jan Volume 2
To ensure you make the most of all the information archived on the site and don’t miss any hidden gems, we’ve put together a few top tips in a detailed guide.
Read our top tips for searching the site.
With over one hundred thousand online pages and even more images and PDF’s, Grace’s Guide is a leading source for free-to-use historical information on Britain’s industrial past.
We’re the first and perhaps only site to hold a complete digital archive of the rare original volumes of The Engineer, spanning 100 years from the 1860’s. Every page of The Engineer is in an easy to read PDF format, both searchable on Grace’s Guide and the top search engines.
Eventually and with funding, we hope to do the same for ‘Engineering’ to collect even more rare accounts, editorials and engravings for you to freely use and view at your convenience.
Enjoy exploring the site!