World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        Albert Hoyland 

Memories of WWII in Industry

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Albert E Hoyland
Location of story: Sheffield, Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian


Memories of WWII in Industry

A E Hoyland

In WW2 I was employed as an Engineers Patternmaker in a Sheffield Steelworks producing essential War items for all classes of the Armed Services.

In submitting this short account of some of the work carried out in Industrial Sheffield, and the general conditions encountered I hope it will be of some small value to any interested party requiring this type of knowledge.

This script has been abstracted from an attempt by myself to produce a record of my life and memories of a Sheffield East Ender, circa 1921 plus.

When I was 18 years of age Conscription was introduced. Due to the importance of the work we were involved in we were subject to the Essential Works Order and not allowed to be Conscripted for military service. We were not to be released from this until the 1946/47 period. An instance occurred when one of our apprentices gave his wrong employment and was placed in the army. Following his not attending for work enquires made by the management. The outcome, his father also a Patter-maker in our shop, received a notification to attend Catterick Camp and remove his son from the army. He had to pay a sum of money, for the 3 weeks period the offender was there, these costs included charges for food, uniform wear and tear etc. Warned that if the son attempted this again he could be placed on a Jail sentence of three months and a severe fine. No one else was tempted to overcome the Essential Works Order choose, how patriotic their feelings.

This work involved many highly secret projects for-the forces. Production of Matitda Tanks, Churchill Tank Turrets, The preparation of the first pattern for this produced by myself. Ariel Bomb production in sizes from 250 lbs to 1000 lbs. Reference Matilida Tanks, these used in the western desert by the 8th Army a problem encountered being the overall weight of the tanks when parked would sink into the sand surface. An urgent alteration called for. The problem overcome by the re-design of specific items. The track links given an increased surface area coupled with a re-design an the Engine Louvers. These being altered and the general weight reduced, also cast in stronger steel. The track Jockey arms also re-designed. Became more aware of these after the war, especially when the Official Secrets Act expired. Have found pleasure and information in observing the Official War Office films, released after 40+ years and projected an television. Many of the items we only knew, of as Code Names. Mulberry, Fido. Pluto, Neptune, magnetic mine repulse items etc.

Stack Moulding.
This an item in which I had the profound pleasure of assisting in its development. This being a brain-child of my fathers, a suggestion never attempted -previously. War calls for experimentation when the circumstances demand. This a method of increasing the, casting of certain items from 4 per cast to 16/24 Items. A revolutionary idea but we made it possible following many trials and tribulations, not all first prizes. In the initial stages the secure clamping together of the individual segments and the provision for the prevention of twisted joints and run outs, a dangerous fault when the molten steel burst free from the mould. All achieved by experimentation and trial and error. We gave the tools and the farces finished the job.

Had the pleasure of meeting Lord Burghley, The Marquis of Exeter, a pre war Olympic Gold Medallist who at that period being in charge of vital war products. Specializing in Tank Production.

Introduced to the Duke of Kent, tragically, following his visit to the foundry. He embarked on a journey by air from Doncaster to a Scottish destination in-which he lost his life. The full information of this assignment not released far 60 years. This subject held in the archives far this period of time.

At these vital times our hours of work averaged 12 hrs per day, Saturday 8 ½ Sunday 8 ½ hrs. One Saturday afternoon off each 3rd week period. Also directed into the Auxiliary Fire Service, later re-named National Fire Service, on a Part Time member basis. To this day I have no explanation of where the authorities imagined we had any of this commodity to call upon. These duties entailed one full nights duty at selected Stations and to report on the Purple and Red alert signals when enemy air raids imminent or in progress. “264245 reporting for duty.” We were provided with a Breakfast at the end of our duty period. These came in Straw lined Hot Boxes, the menu a variety of re-constituted eggs and a debatable identity of sausage. On odd occasions Bacon included we the part timers soon realized the regulars raided the boxes and remove this luxury prior to our knowledge of its existence. Upon discovering we took the initiative to beat them to it. Left them the delicacy of the Herrings and Kippers. Duty finished at 6am, had to report for work for 7-30 am. Not an easy task to accomplish. Sign off journey home, change clothing and travel by Tram or cycle to work. My Identity Card and Essential Works Order Cards are still in my possession.

At the age of 20 contracted a severe infection of the throat, first diagnosed as Tonsillitis, the poisons from this, developing into an illness, Nephritis, a condition of severe inflammation of the kidneys. Could only have contracted this from an occasion when a specific duty allocated to our section of the N F S being to attend on special Fire Duty at a local cinema (The Sunbeam). Named after the owners favourite Motor Cycle. This building situated next to a large house which we were allocated to preserve at all costs in the event of Air or Fire raids. The rumour being it was a signaling and receiving station applicable to the latest Radar systems. Never verified but important to the extent of warranting special attention. On arrival we were allocated a bed and a blanket Normally we would use our own allocation of this item plus our individual linen sheet sleeping bag, as a precaution to prevent cross infection. On complaining of this the answer "Get on with the job in hand" don't you know there's a war on? To my misfortune my fears were proven with the ensuing problems experienced.

Following the visit by a Doctor from the hospital the illness diagnosed. Doctor reluctant to move me to hospital due to my general condition. Stated they were using a New Drug Coded M&B 693, produced by May & Baker, some of the first Penicillin drug on the market, it had been given to ill German prisoners of war with good results. My reaction to this statement being (If it's good enough for them my need is more important) these tablets consisted of the size of a shitting in diameter and approximately ¼ " thick, not an easy item to swallow, This to be taken with volumes of water, lay flat on the back and hope and trust in someone either on this earth or Fullers.

Violent Nausea a side effect, hence if regurgitated the operation of replacing the lost tablets commenced. Following the ingestion of these the pain slowly decreased and prevented the brain becoming paranoid. Hallucinations followed, the main ones I recollect being a number of Black Cats sitting on the bottom of the bed, and my asking where these had originated. Time and patience plus gallons of water consumed slowly gave me a modicum of comfort and the realization I was on the way out of this illness.

During this period of incapacity lasting 3 months in total I had grown a beard, bright ginger in colour also achieved my 21st Birthday. My fiancée Renee and all my family supported me through this dark period. On returning to work I was informed by the Foreman my status was now a fully time served Journeyman. I could have told him that in view of the previous 7 years apprenticeship and Studies achieved.

21 years of age. Qualified as a fully skilled Engineers Patternmaker. At this point allowed to have a Steel Name-stamp in order to identify all the work produced. The period from 14 yrs of age to 21 yrs also included and it considered beneficial to embark on Evening School Subjects, consisting of at least 4/5 years. These included English. Mathematics, Engineering Drawing, Machine Construction and Design, also General Sciences, Heat Engines and the Basics of Electricity. These were all activities, which had to be achieved in the apprentice's own free time.( No job release those days.) Entailing 4 evenings per week of 2hrs duration, culminating in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years being studied at the Sheffield University, Department of Applied Sciences, situated an Mappin Street. The majority of the final years studies being curtailed by the closing of the University at nights due to the War bombing raids.

When informed we had to take our Final Exams in one week, queried why. The answer given the College was closing at nights due to the incidents and dangers from enemy action. Managed a pass in spite of the loss of ½ a terms tuition. B****Y Hitler.

Thursday, December 13th,1940.
Blitz raid an the central shopping and food supply section of Sheffield. Many buildings and important sections of the shopping and food-stores, great losses of habitable living accommodation destroyed. Including considerable number of fatalities to civilian personnel of the general and working population. The Tramways system also suffered losses of track work and trams. One popular and well patronized hostelry Marples Hotel standing on the corner of Fitzalan Square and High Street received a direct hit, resulting in an unknown number of casualties killed. So severe the area was quick timed and left until after the war prior to any work being carried out on this site. This information gleaned from my wife's brother, employed as the Chief Engineer Sheffield Corporation.

A Commemorative Plaque giving full detail of casualties etc is available to view in the Peace Gardens adjoining the Town Hall. Also in this area is a Plaque commemorating the Volunteers from the areas who served in the Spanish Civil War.

Sunday, December 16th,1940.
Further raids by the Luftwaffe, this time centered on the areas containing the workshops and industries engaged on vital War Work. These raids extended from the Wicker along the main road to Rotherham. This area being an almost inline area of some of the most productive and essential items to the war effort. Many civilians blamed the tramways system with their flashes of electricity which occurred from the collector arms being a giveaway guide to the areas the Bombers were looking far, the Luftwaffe pilots must have been capable of finding their allotted targets.

The pattern-shop in which 1 was employed, lost the whole of the roof glass. Obviously due to its construction being of inserted Glass Panels. We set up teams to carry out repairs, the method being to replace all the areas having lost the glass to be replaced by Asbestos Sheet. These sheets cut an the Band saws to size and fitted into the slides from which the glass was held. The final item being to beat back into place the lead flashing, thus preventing the elements entering. Other members of personnel being engaged on cleaning down and removing the glass and debris from machinery and working areas. We worked on these repairs with an attitude of 'We will not be beaten`. Back in full production on the Tuesday am. My thoughts in latter years about the risk we must have taken in sawing the asbestos on open saws without dust removal equipment. We had the sense to request Masks for all an this hazardous operation. Asbestosis had not been diagnosed from the effects of Asbestos Dust attacking the lungs with its devastating consequences. The whole of the War period we worked by Electric fighting. This due to coupled with the asbestos replacement and the fact the entire window areas having been painted black as an air raid precaution.

The enemy never made further extensive raids an the industrial areas, perhaps the Nazi Top Brass being so confident of their ability to in the near future be in possession of these vital commodities for their own future use.

An item I must record.
Following the rescue of the British Expeditionary Force from the Dunkirk Beaches, including many French and other Army personnel. Large numbers of these became billeted amongst the residents of the Firth Park and Shiregreen districts homes. My Mother had two Officers allocated, one name I remember a Captain Lauder. Gentleman of approx 40 years, appeared a little old for his present predicament.
The first Sunday following all these men having been settled. They met in the local parks, many of them dressed in Hospital Blue suits. We mixed amongst them but did not realize the suffering they had endured. On the Monday during the Dunkirk Rescue Mission we were all requested to contribute with a pint of blood taken by the Blood Transfusion Unit who attended our place of employment. This procedure became a regular event during the hostilities period.

Another War Time memory arising whilst playing Monopoly this at Renees home with her family. Her father a keen player but he always managed to have the misfortune to alight upon the most expensive properties on the Board, Park Lane & Mayfair. The number of occasions the other players missed falling an his assets appeared out of all proportion, when they did invariably not in possession of the funds to cover their misfortune. We the other players agreed to a ruling that he be refused the purchasing of these properties. He declined this offer and stated we continue to adhere to the written Rules. A typical reaction by him, we at times became so engrossed in the game the necessity to visit the Anderson Air Raid Shelter in the garden was overlooked. Permit me to include this Wartime joke.
The Sirens have sounded, the husband exclaims to his wife, "Hurry along" To* wife's reply of “I do not have my false teeth2 Husbands reply “Their dropping bombs not roast pork sandwiches”.

The introduction of the Dig for Victory Campaign. The local Parks and recreation grounds ploughed and sectioned; these plots offered to the public on the promise to grow food crops. The introduction of a Fertilizer named National Growmore assisted in the Growmore Campaign effort of producing larger and better quality crops.