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Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler

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Potters Green Lad
Long Lawford Rugby
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1 of 20  Mon 23rd Mar 2015 6:55pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2015  Total posts:37

Hello ladies and gents I stumbled across your site this afternoon and am staggered by the depth of knowledge displayed and the infectious friendliness of the contributors. Despite having arrived in Potters Green in 1960 aged 5, from Burton on Trent, I have always considered myself a Coventry kid, I went to Eburne infants then Foxford, I did my time as a Bedford truck mechanic at C&E Motors in Canley, became a Freeman of the city (a very proud day), married at St Mary's Walsgrave, then set up house in Clifford Park before work forced me to move out to Rugby some years ago but I still belong to Coventry. Having laid out my credentials I now feel, if you are not to shocked to find I now live in Rugby! that I can ask for a little help with a subject that I have been trying to investigate for sometime. My father died when I was seventeen and as so often happens you never get to have the conversations that you need to, and people of that era were a lot less forthcoming about their past than they are today. My father, Thomas Prewett (known as Glyn) worked at the Daimler before, and just into the second world war. To the best of my knowledge he was an engineer who worked in the Bren gun manufacturing area of the factory up until the night raid that destroyed the facility, I think this was 1941, a decision was made to move production of the guns out of the city to maintain production and subsequently my father was sent under the essential services agreement to work at a shoe factory in Burton on Trent called Eatoughs Shoes where using the workforces skills in fine detail work the munitions work was continued. When one considers that the Daimler produced upwards of 74,000 Bren guns for the war effort it would seem very sad that so little is known about this contribution locally, and that it is so difficult to find information on the matter in general. After the war my father got a job at Ind Coopes brewery, met my mother, had two kids and we finally moved to Potters Green when my father got a job at Carbodies on the Holyhead Road in 1960. Having laid out my table so to speak, does anybody have any information regarding the air raid on the Daimler works, Bren gun production, the movement of the workforce around the country to maintain production, or indeed remember my father, my memory of him is that he was a well respected chap who was a good engineer and a good friend to people so I would love to hear some stories about him from anybody out there. Thank you for reading this and in anticipation of your help in this matter
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
mcsporran
Coventry & Cebu
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2 of 20  Mon 23rd Mar 2015 7:29pm  
Member: Joined Oct 2013  Total posts:338

Hi, welcome to the forum. According to this page "During the war Daimler built over 6,600 scout and some 2,700 Mk I and Mk II armoured cars. Tank components, particularly epicyclic gearboxes were provided for some 2,500 Crusader, Covenanter and Cavalier tanks. No complete aircraft as in the previous war but 50,800 radial aero-engines—Bristol Mercury, Hercules and Pegasus—with full sets of parts for a further 9,500 of these engines; propeller shafts for Rolls-Royce aero-engines; 14,356 gun-turrets for bombers including their Browning machine guns; 74,000 Bren guns—bombed-out that production had to be moved to a boot and shoe factory in Burton-on-Trent. Over 10 million aircraft parts were produced during the war. All this production is Daimler's alone excluding BSA's other involvements." Although google books has this excerpt from a 1948 book Daimler, 1896-1946: a record of fifty years of the Daimler Company "The manufacture of some twenty-three parts of the famous Bren gun was also carried out by the Daimler Company" which suggests that complete guns were not being made.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Midland Red
Cherwell
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3 of 20  Mon 23rd Mar 2015 8:16pm  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:4604

John, I have this book, so I'll get back to the forum tomorrow with more detail Thumbs up
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Midland Red
Cherwell
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4 of 20  Tue 24th Mar 2015 3:01pm  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:4604

At the beginning of the war the Service Department was removed from its accustomed quarters adjoining Engine Shop No.2 to premises in King Street and Osborne, Road, Coventry. It was also found necessary for the Company to take over part of the Radford Social Club to provide office accommodation. The large shop originally occupied by the Service Department was converted for the manufacture of Bren guns. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A [further] raid followed on the night of April 10 [1941] when many H.E. bombs and incendiaries were dropped on the main Daimler factory. Damage was sustained in the Bren Gun shop and again in the Foundry . . . . . . In going through the Bren Gun shop, a large hole, measuring some 36-40 inches diameter, was found in the floor and one in the roof. As there was no sign of any explosion having taken place, it was assumed that a very large bomb had fallen and that it had either failed to explode or has a delayed-action fuse, which seemed improbable . . . . . . Clearly enough, if the Bren Gun shop were not to go sky-high and to take some Daimler personnel with it, not a moment should be lost in recovering the bomb . . . . . . and so for nearly two days the 72nd Company of the Royal Engineers, reinforced by members of the Daimler staff, proceeded to dig like mad in a race to recover the bomb before anything unpleasant should happen. When they had reached eight feet, water was struck and it was necessary to install pumps and to keep them going the whole time to keep the water down. Eventually the bomb was located lying some sixteen feet below the surface level and some twenty-nine feet away from the hole where it had broken through the concrete floor . . . . . . When at last it was reached, it was found to be lying level but most unfortunately, with its fuse underneath. The 69th Section (Bomb Disposal) of the Royal Engineers was called in to take charge of affairs . . . . . . one of the R.E. experts made a hasty examination [armed with a torch and a mirror] and pronounced the fuse to be of a new type. After much thought, it was decided to turn the bomb over, so that the fuse would be on top in a get-at-able position . . . . . . An electric Stethoscope was procured and was connected to a loud speaker set to monitor and unpleasant and ominous noises which might issue from the bomb while it was being turned over . . . . . . The Bomb Disposal Section was for burning a hole in [the bomb] with Thermite, but the Works Manager of the Daimler Company held this to be too risky because the contents of the bomb were unknown. It was finally decided to cut the base cap in two with a hack-saw . . . . . . it was just after a relief worker had come down into the hole and was preparing to saw away that the loud-speaker suddenly came to life and began an awe-inspiring “tick, tock, tick, tock”. As one man, the whole party dropped everything and fled in all directions. Every world’s record ever created for getting out of a deep and muddy pit was broken on that day by a wide margin, and when the whole party was at a safe distance they waited for the coming roar – but nothing happened. After a time, first one brave heart and then another crept slowly back towards the scene of the operations, only to find that the tell-tale loud-speaker had resumed its former silence. Then, as the same relief worker proceeded to resume work, it started off again; had the fellow some occult influence over the infernal machine in the hole, and if not what was the cause of the clockwork mechanism only coming to life when he approached? Suddenly somebody had an inspiration; he was the only worker who had failed to remove his watch from his pocket, and, sure enough, it was the ticking of his watch that had caused the loud-speaker to magnify the sound. . . . it took the party engaged fourteen and a half hours to complete [the sawing through the base cap], as the saw-blade could only be held in one hand and the cap itself was three quarters of an inch thick. When opened, the top filling of the bomb was found to be amotol which was promptly washed out by means of a trailer pump. The middle filling was T.N.T. which had to be steamed out after the bomb had been removed from the hole and was resting on the floor of the Shop. The nose end contained solid T.N.T. It took the party a day and a half to empty the bomb, after which some means had to be devised of disposing of the bomb case and fuse and fuse pocket. It was estimated that the bomb contained no less than 2,400 lbs. of high explosive. It was taken outside and securely fastened down, after which a wire rope was fastened round the fuse pocket and the other end fastened to the rear of a Daimler lorry fully one hundred yards away. At a given signal, the drive of the lorry, with first gear engaged, accelerated his engine violently and the fuse pocket was torn out without incident. This was later blown with a gun cotton slab. The whole operation was an exceedingly dangerous and difficult one; it took some six and a half days to complete with the party working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. . . . . . . It is only fair to record that great credit was due to Third Officer Wadhams of the Daimler Fire Brigade, and to Fireman George Watkins, who worked the pumps, as well as to R.S.M. Kytes, Gaylard, Child and Sergeant Lovett of Daimler Home Guard who rendered great assistance with the digging operations. Edited by member, 24th Mar 2015 3:09 pm
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Potters Green Lad
Long Lawford Rugby
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5 of 20  Tue 24th Mar 2015 5:23pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2015  Total posts:37

Thank you both for your fantastic response. I read the description of the bomb disposal with my mouth open! How do people find the courage to behave in such a fashion when their main concern appeared to be the preservation of a factory? it wasn't just the troops who risked everything for the war effort, I can only assume that those involved were presented with medals for their bravery, if they weren't, then they should have been. Regarding the shoe factory in Burton on Trent mentioned in the first post, (Eatoughs Shoes) they were originally based in the Leicester area and at one point employed 1000 staff but enquires in Burton library proved fruitless, strangely they have absolutely no record of the company which I discovered finally ceased trading in the sixties due to foreign competition as was usually the case. I find it odd that a German company such as Daimler, which was building vehicles under license in Britain prior to the war should find itself producing such enormous amounts of armaments which it duly used against its initial owners, a bit of an irony to say the least. As you will probably guess, the main thrust of my enquiry is to discover something about my father during this whole period. Until a recent conversation with a distant aunty I had no idea he had even worked at Daimler let alone building Bren guns, and the idea that he was possibly working in the place where an unexploded bomb was defused just seems incredible. It would be fantastic if somebody remembered him personally or could point me in the direction of any documents relating to the workforce at the time or how he found himself one day working in Coventry and the next day making guns in a shoe factory in Burton. The thing that also intrigues me was his time spent working at Carbodies, how did he manage to get a job there in 1960 when he was working in Ind Coopes brewery in Burton, they never had internet in those days so how did he get to know about employment in Coventry? Naturally if anybody remembers dad during his time there that would also be great to know. I vaguely remember that he was a TGWU shop steward there but unlike a lot of the other car factories at that time Carbodies was always a lot more stable with fewer strikes ETC.. In essence I am trying to do what I should have done many years ago and try and get to know my dad a little better so any assistance you can provide would be most appreciated. Thanks again.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
TonyS
Coventry
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6 of 20  Tue 24th Mar 2015 9:05pm  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2011  Total posts:1542

Fascinating account Cliff, thank you for posting Thumbs up
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Rob Orland
Historic Coventry
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7 of 20  Tue 24th Mar 2015 9:26pm  
Webmaster: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:1077

Wow, what a thoroughly gripping account - real "edge of the seat" stuff ! Thank you for taking the time to copy it out Cliff.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
mcsporran
Coventry & Cebu
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8 of 20  Tue 24th Mar 2015 9:51pm  
Member: Joined Oct 2013  Total posts:338

The website BritainFromAbove has a view of Eatoughs shoe factory in 1946. Edited by member, 24th Mar 2015 9:54 pm
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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9 of 20  Tue 24th Mar 2015 10:45pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:1863

Potters green lad, If you go to page 5 and scroll down you will find the thread Woodway Lane, some one may have knew of your father, maybe his friends or interests. I worked at Carbodies for a short time early sixties,can't remember names now. I left to visit the Rome Olympics, so I know it was 1960 month off not allowed. I'm sure some one on this forum will help you. As for your post, Potters green played a big part in my life, so did the Bren gun, and in amusing way so did getting a certain job. P.S.Have you any idea what department your father worked in at Carbodies? Regards kaga.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
flapdoodle
Coventry
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10 of 20  Wed 25th Mar 2015 8:09am  
Member: Joined Nov 2010  Total posts:832

"I find it odd that a German company such as Daimler, which was building vehicles under license in Britain prior to the war should find itself producing such enormous amounts of armaments which it duly used against its initial owners, a bit of an irony to say the least.| Daimler in the UK was never a German firm, the businessman who set it up licensed the name and technology for use in the UK. That's the only 'link' with Daimler in Germany.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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11 of 20  Wed 25th Mar 2015 8:55am  
Off-topic / chat  

Potters Green Lad
Long Lawford Rugby
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12 of 20  Wed 25th Mar 2015 11:13am  
Member: Joined Mar 2015  Total posts:37

Hi Mcsporran Cheers , thanks for the image of the Eatoughs Shoe factory in Burton on Trent. Having carried out a little research on the factory apparently it was the first company to introduce the idea of 'music while you work' by having it piped around the building by an early Tannoy system, ITunes for the masses eh! It also developed a type of rubberised leisure shoe rather like the modern day Crocs which were very popular as day trips to the seaside and the annual holiday break became more established but as I said in an earlier posting the company ceased trading eventually due to cheap foreign imports what is strange however is that a company the size of the one in your image in the very centre of a town could just disappear and leave no traces on the Burton on Trent local archive. With regard to your posting Kaga Cheers , my father was known to everybody as Glyn Prewett. I seem to remember that during his time at Carbodies he worked along the production line in a roll of rectifier of production issues as they occurred. He had two very good friends who were both Polish chaps, one I believe was called Bruno, and he was still working at Carbodies until shortly before his death in Oct 1972. Looking at your postings regarding Woodway Lane, I did a fair bit of my courting in the Jolly Colliers and occasionally used the Boat Inn on a Sunday dinner because they kept a great pint of Bass bitter. I seem to remember they had saw dust on the floor of the bar and spittunes, women were only allowed in the snug bar on the right as you went in the front door but to be fair there was a coal fire in that room so they probably had the better deal! In my childhood I can remember playing along the Oxford canal up by the Colliers where we used to jump on the front of the coal barges as they navigated the bend by the old iron bridge and try and jump off again before the bar-gee gave us a prod with the barge pole to push us into the water, happy days! I believe Eburne Primary School is now a NHS office or something now and I also remember that when we walked along the black pad through to Foxford School and back every day later on we always called at Sextons shop at the top of Ringwood Highway in the morning where Mrs Sexton would sell us single no6 cigarettes and a couple of matches for the walk which she put into the old fashioned triangular sweetie bags to keep them safe, what a thoughtful old lady she was! With all of this rambling over does anybody have any information on the Bren gun production at Daimler in the early days of the war or more importantly the dispersal of staff following the air raids of 1941. Having exhausted the reference library in Coventry and the Jaguar archive at Gaydon you may be my last chance to find out what my father was up.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
mcsporran
Coventry & Cebu
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13 of 20  Wed 25th Mar 2015 12:31pm  
Member: Joined Oct 2013  Total posts:338

Eatoughs also had premises at Earl Shilton and Syston. According to this link, they made footwear for RAF bomber crews during the Second World War, as well as clogs for workers in munitions factories The owners Mr & Mrs Eastough took the whole workforce to Blackpool to celebrate their golden wedding. There are numerous pictures here. The company records were deposited at the Leicester & Rutland Record Office at Wigston Magna, email recordoffice@leics.gov.uk phone 0116 257 1080. Re Bren gun manufacture at Daimler, have you tried the local history centre at the Herbert museum?
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
Potters Green Lad
Long Lawford Rugby
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14 of 20  Wed 25th Mar 2015 1:47pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2015  Total posts:37

Hi Mcsporran Thank you yet again for your help and assistance. I have read the account regarding Eatoughs shoes that you posted, and already contacted the Hinkley Past and Present society that produced it in order that I can find out a little more. As I travel around a great deal with my job (presently off having had an operation on my hand) I will try and get to the records office and view a copy of Eatoughs company records in the very near future, but for now thanks again and I will try and get a little further with Bren gun production at Daimler in Coventry, I'm just hoping that somebody will notice the thread and respond shortly.
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler
dutchman
Spon End
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15 of 20  Wed 25th Mar 2015 3:56pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3033

On 24th Mar 2015 3:01pm, Midland Red said: It took the party a day and a half to empty the bomb, after which some means had to be devised of disposing of the bomb case and fuse and fuse pocket. It was estimated that the bomb contained no less than 2,400 lbs. of high explosive.
German SC1000 or 'Hermann' as it was irreverently nicknamed by bomb disposal crews:
Glyn Prewett and Bren gun manufacture at the Daimler

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