Help | News | Credits | Search | Guestbook | Forum | Shop | Contact Us | Welcome

Westwood Works 1903-2003

Westwood Works in World War 1


"During the war most of their (Werner, Pfleiderer and Perkins') own production ceased and in common with other engineering factories they went on to war work. This included, Cordite Mixers, Field Ovens, Diesel engines for lorries, tractors and tanks, the 6" Howitzer Field Gun and various miscellaneous jobs. From 1917 onwards they collaborated with Joseph Baker & Sons in the manufacture of Base Bakeries for the Army." (From "A Synopsis of the History of Baker Perkins and of the Company's activities during the period 1939-1945" by Sir Ivor Baker)

"Werners Own"

In the first few months of World War 1, many hundreds of men volunteered to fight. Volunteers from the same town, factory, or area were recruited into "Pals" battalions so that they could serve together. Pals battalions made up a significant proportion of Kitchener's army. Between September 1914 and June 1916, the War Office through the traditional channels raised a total of 351 infantry battalions whereas 643 battalions were raised locally. Despite the German connections of Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins, a "Pals" battalion - Werner's Own - was formed.

The first three days of September 1914 saw a total of 73 Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins' men join the Royal Engineers Pioneers (Kitchener’s Army) at Chatham. They were given a great send-off at Peterborough's GNR station by some of the Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins directors - F.C. Ihlee, Josh Booth, John Pointon. Kurt Pfleiderer, Otto Pfleiderer and others. There were more ‘Werner’s Own’ preparing to leave.

Some of these men might have gained some experience in rifle shooting on the company's miniature rifle range which WP&P had thrown open to young men - both employees and non-employees. Many Westwood men had taken up the offer, together with nearly a hundred other local men. The majority of these men had enlisted before the end of September 1914.

Werner's Own marching to Peterborough Station Werner's Own leaving Peterborough 1914: Mr Allan R. Baker (4th from right) with the Ambulance Service at Ypres

Some of the Westwood men who went to War

Fred Costin (1896-1950), joined Baker Perkins in 1910, at the age of 14. Four years later, at the outbreak of WW1, he was serving with the Royal Field Artillery, spending much of the War in Egypt.

Gunner Fred Costin 4399 – It is thought that this photograph was taken late on in the War, probably in Egypt. It is noticeable that his tropical issue uniform is well worn. His cap does not appear to be of regular issue and is without a cap badge. Perhaps the photograph commemorates Fred's 21st Birthday.
1914-1915 Star – Fred, like most who served throughout WW1, would have also have received The British War Medal and The Victory Medal. The three medals were affectionately known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred after comic strip characters of the time.
Gift Box – Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary created a “Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund” in November 1914 to “provide everyone wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a gift from the nation’”. The response was overwhelming and the money was spent on the embossed brass box shown here, the contents of which varied considerably. Fred’s would have contained a pipe, lighter, 1-oz of tobacco and twenty cigarettes, non-smokers received a bullet pencil and a packet of sweets.

After the War, he returned to Westwood Works and resumed his career in the Machine Shop on the Heavy Lathes. Fred was an expert marksman and joined the Baker Perkins Rifle Club - two of the competition trophies that he won in 1945 are shown in The Rifle & Pistol Club. He also volunteered to join the Home Guard in WW2, serving as a sergeant with "E" Company, of the Peterborough City Battalion, the 1st. Northamptonshire Home Guard, based at Westwood Works, and won "E" Company's .22 rifle shooting competition (see - Westwood Works in WW2 - The Home Guard).

As was not unusual at Baker Perkins, two of Fred's three sons also worked at Westwood - John Costin, as a draughtsman and Glen Costin, in the Gearcutting Section, (see - 1951 photograph in - How it Was - Life at Westwood Works - In the Factory - 1900-1969). One of his two daughters, Valerie, worked in the Drawing Office as a Tracer.

One of the above photographs shows Allan R. Baker (father of A.I. Baker) with the Ambulance Service in France during WW1. His brother, Joe, also joined the Friends Ambulance Unit and then the Leinster Regiment. He was sent home wounded after a few weeks in the trenches, shot through the knee but went back to the front after some months’ convalescence, with the rank of Major and the job of inspecting bakeries for the troops. Joe Baker never fully recovered from his wound – arthritis set in and his disability increased year by year. (For more information on the Friends' Ambulance Unit, see History of Joseph Baker & Sons - The World War One Years).

Other Westwood men made the ultimate sacrifice:

Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Roll of Honour

(NOTE: This information is reproduced with the kind permission of David Gray from his book - "No More Strangers" - published in 1992).

Private Walter Fairman, A Company, 6th Northamptonshire Regiment, killed in action on 14th October 1915 at Fricourt. Enlisted in September 1914.
Corporal Albert Farrer, 1st Northamptonshire Regiment, wounded in action on October 16th, died in hospital in France on October 18th aged 28.
Lance Corporal Jabez Jacques, 7th Northamptonshire Regiment, killed in action at Loos 15/9/15.
* Lieutenant Bernard Pelmore, 63rd Royal Naval Division Engineers Unit, killed in action on 18/7/17 near Arras.
Private Arthur Sandal, Middlesex Regiment, killed in action August 17th 1917, aged 20. Only joined up the previous March.
Private C.D. Watts, Royal Fusiliers, killed in action in France on 5th November 1917 aged 19.

(* Bernard Pelmore was the fourth son of Paul Pfleiderer. Born in 1886, he joined WP&P in 1912 and became a director in 1915 on the death of his brother, K. Pelmore. Although his occupation and qualifications would have allowed otherwise, he insisted on serving his country in a fighting capacity, enlisting as a sapper in August 1914 and was sent to France in August 1916. He changed his name to Pelmore, as did the rest of the "English" Pfleiderer family at the outbreak of the war).


The Zeppelin Boys

It is interesting to note that the Company once employed Zeppelin Boys. Mr. George Smith joined Perkins Engineers in 1916 at the age of 13 as a Zeppelin Boy. It was part of his job to go down to the powerhouse and tell them to switch off all lights and power when an air raid was expected. The warning came from the local police.

Mr. Smith completed 50 years with the company - working for 20 years as a turner, then went into the rate fixing department, followed by the planning department, finally ending up in the computer section.

We have no evidence that any Zeppelin raids actually took place on Peterborough although many were reported on east coast towns and the London area in 1915, 1916 and 1917. There is, however, a record of the sighting of a strange flying object seen by two Peterborough policemen on 23rd March 1909. Although this was before Germany embarked on a major Zeppelin construction programme, it has been suggested that it was a Zeppelin on a very early reconnaissance flight - something that was not unknown even before hostilities broke out.

Foir more information see Zeppelin (on Wikipedia) and The Great British Scareship Mystery of 1909.

Confusion Reigns

All this talk of "Perkins Engineers" "made in Peterborough" and "diesel engines" will probably serve only to confuse researchers as the immediate reaction is likely to be to make a connection with "Perkins Engines" - the world-famous diesel engine manufacturer - also of Peterborough. Despite the similarity in names and location, plus the fact that Westwood Works did make a variety of engines during WW1, there has never been any connection between the two companies.

Westwood Works changed its name from "Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins" to "Perkins Engineers" at the outbreak of WW1 in response to the wave of anti-German feeling locally which resulted in the reading of the Riot Act in Peterborough city centre (see here). Perkins Engineers later joined with Joseph Baker & Sons to form Baker Perkins.

Frank Perkins, a member of the family firm - Barford & Perkins, built his first engine in a factory in Queens Street Peterborough in 1932. Between 1937 and 1946, the factory turned out 12,000 engines, most destined for marine use. It was in 1947 that Perkins Engines moved to its current site in Eastfield, Peterborough. (See here).

Inside Westwood Works in Wartime

This photograph is of activity in Westwood Works during WW1. It is notable for the number of women working on machine tools. Maude Joan Shotbolt (nee Bason), herself a turret operator at Westwood during WW2, tells us that her mother, Maude Brown, and aunt, Anne Brown, were employed on munitions work at WP&P during WW1. Mrs Shotbolt believes that the dark haired lady just to the left of centre of the photograph is, in fact, her mother!

A rare photograph of the Women Munitions Workers from Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Ltd parading through Peterborough's Market Place on 14th September 1918, just prior to the end of the Great War. The Peterborough Advertiser for 21 September 1918 states ‘Between 500 and 600 Women War Workers in their picturesque uniforms attended a women’s Recruiting Rally at Peterborough on Saturday. There were the WACs and Wrens and the WRAFs, the V A Ds, munition workers and others in their uniforms or overalls.

The article described the event in a little more detail but there is very little mentioned about the munitions workers except that as our local representatives they took up the Rear-Guard, and they were praised for the work they did, not having the advantages of working in the open air!

The photographs above - thought to have been taken in 1918 - show more of Westwood Works on armament production during World War One. The level of activity appears to compare favourably with that depicted in similar images shown later in this section of the factory during World War Two. It is a shame that they were taken out of working hours as some idea might have been obtained of the number of women engaged on war work. It is possible, however, to envisage what the factory looked like when working by comparing the last image in the row with the almost identical image as portrayed by Rudolph Ihlee. (See Lithographs).

It is known that Westwood made tank parts and Ricardo diesel engines for tanks as part of its the war effort. This is believed to have been taken at Westwood Works during WW1 and has been identified as a Mark IV tank - a Male? See below - and similar to those shown in the photograph sixth from the left in the row above.
Ricardo 225bhp 6-cylinder engine as fitted to the Mark V Tank.

The Mark V tank was fitted with a new Ricardo 225bhp 6 cylinder engine (as illustrated being assembled at Westwood in the photos above and in Mr. Ihlee's lithographs?), that had been specially designed for this tank. It is thought possible that the need to test these engines might have been the reason for the presence of the Mark IV tanks at Westwood.

With new transmission and better gears, the tank could travel at nearly 5 mph. The Mark V was a late participant in the First World war. It was first used in the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918 when 60 tanks contributed to a successful assault by Australian units on the German lines.

The first battle in which tanks had been implemented was the Battle of the Somme, on September 15, 1916, when the British used 49 tanks with disappointing results. Little more than a year later, however, in November 1917, 400 British tanks penetrated German lines near Cambrai, capturing 8000 of the enemy and 100 guns.

For security reasons, production of the new weapon was allocated to several different companies, each manufacturing single parts to be assembled later. Early tanks were designated Male or Female depending on their weaponry (57mm naval guns and machine guns for the male version, machine guns only for the female).

Output of British tanks rose from 150 in 1916 to 1,391 in 1918.

The photograph fifth from the left in the row above is interesting in that it shows a line of Tylor JB4 Twin 4-cylinder petrol engines being assembled at Westwood, .

These engines were first used to power contemporary London double-decker omnibuses.but, in 1917, began to be installed in a new British medium tank - the Whippet - intended to use its greater speed and mobility to complement the heavier tanks by exploiting any break in the enemy lines.

The Medium Mark A Whippet Tank

(With acknowledgements to Mark Pellegrini)

Tylor JB4 Twin 4-cylinder petrol engine 2 of which were used to power the Whippet Tank

William Fosters & Co.of Lincoln built 202 Whippets in total, the first production tanks leaving the factory in October 1917. The crew compartment (accommodating 3 or 4) was a fixed square turret at the rear of the vehicle with two Tylor engines, each driving a set of tracks through its own gearbox and front. An armoured fuel tank projected forward between the front horns.

First used in battle on March 26th 1918 during the great German offensive and possibly the most successful British tank of World War I, the Whippet was responsible for more German casualties than any other British tank of the war. They are most remembered for their role in the battle of Amiens on August 8th 1918.

Wartime Wages - War Work Premium

A Werner Pfleiderer & Perkins Internal Notice, dated 26th November 1914, announced:

For such period of pressure of work as the management may think fit and in no case for a longer period than for the duration of the War.

The Company agrees voluntarily to pay the following guaranteed minimum premium over daywork rates.

Two shillings per week

To members of A.S.E. Boilermakers, Tinplate workers, all Moulders, Patternmakers, Carpenters and Electricians.

One Shilling per week

To Fettlers, Strikers, Tube Benders, Labourers, Stores Assistants and Packers.

Provided that full hours are worked.Loss of time involves deductions from premium on the following scales:

2 1/2 hours - 6d.

3-4 hours - 1/-

4-5 hours - 1/6d

6 hours - 2/-

Unless covered by a Doctor's certificate.

The above premiums therefore benefit all who do not automatically benefit by premium earnings during a time of stress and national emergency.

Some War Material at Westwood Works

We believe that these images are of guns which have been returned to Westwood Works for repair after being damaged by shell fire in action. The effect on the unfortunate artillerymen can only be imagined.

This is believed to be a WP&P horse drawn field oven from the WW1 period photographed in the Despatch Dept. at Westwood Works. Compare this with the WW2 versions shown in the collection of photographs in Westwood Works in WW2 - World War 2/Post War Production.

Angier March Perkins, (see also History of A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd), had produced a portable field oven for military use many years earlier. This was based on his son Loftus Perkins' patented stopped-end steam tubes and shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1867. The oven had already been approved and adopted by the UK War Department and soon came to the attention of the French Commissariat Department. The Deputy Commissary-General of the War Department remarked on the fuel economy of these ovens – "whilst the common oven for a given quantity of bread required 224 lbs of coke to heat it, Mr. Perkins' oven only used 56lb for the same quantity".

The oven was heated with wood, coal or by a special fuel oil burner which was developed late in World War Two. To determine when the oven was hot enough to load the loaves of proofed dough the baker stuck his hand in the oven chamber. If he had to withdraw his hand from the baking chamber at about the count of 10, the oven was hot enough to load the dough. Since there was no mixing machine available during World War One, all doughs had to be mixed by hand. 100 pounds of flour plus the other necessary ingredients was mixed at one time. The dough was mixed directly into the Dough Trough and remained there until the end of the fermentation time at which time it was made-up into individual loaves. Dough Proofing Cabinets had to be improvised.

Engraving of the Perkins' Portable oven shown at the 1867 Paris Exhibition

A train-load of portable field ovens leaving Westwood Works during WW1 - presumably heading for the "Front". Someone has obligingly lowered the side of one of the wagons so that the oven can be clearly seen.

Werner Ovens in Royal Navy vessels

At the start of WW1, it was reported in the local Peterborough press that no fewer than one hundred and three vessels of the Royal Navy, all modern, including the flagship of Admiral Sir John Rushworth Jellicoe, HMS Iron Duke, were “exclusively fitted with equipment produced at Messrs Werner & Pfleiderer’s works”. It is suggested that this was most likely to be bakery ovens and associated equipment, A, M Perkins & Son Ltd having been successful over many years in equipping ships with baking ovens.
Perkins Ship's Ovens pre-WW1.

These ovens would have been fitted with Loftus Perkins' patented steam tubes, the tubes being placed in parallel rows - one row under the floor of the oven and the other under the top inner surface of the oven, which had a double casing of iron with a space of four inches filled in between with a non-conducting material, to prevent the escape of heat.

A testimonial received in July 1874 from Baltischer Lloyd, Stettin-Amerikanische Dampfschiffarhts-Actien-Gesellschaft Fracht-Abteilung stated:

"We have the pleasure to inform you that your Patent Steam ovens which we have received from you for our steamers, do us very good service, and we intend to say that also the Koniglich Marine will introduce these Patent Ovens. We have never used anything so good".

It is interesting to note that WP&P baking equipment was used by both sides in the conflict as there is evidence that similar ovens were supplied to the German and Spanish Navies

To see further illustrations of life at Westwood Works during World War One, click here.

Local Anti-German Feeling

It is relevant to refer here to a very disturbing episode that occurred before Werner, Pfleiderer & Perkins was taken over by the government and given war contracts. In the climate that existed at the time, many people in this country were being shunned and even persecuted for being unfortunate enough to bear a German name.

In Peterborough, some prominent businesses in the Town centre - Mr. Franks and Mr. Metz, both butchers, and The "Salmon & Compass" public house - were attacked, windows smashed and stock thrown into the street. Such was the level of excitement that the Mayor of Peterborough was obliged to read the Riot Act and some twenty people were fined or bound over.

Rumours were started that subversive work was being carried on at Westwood and the company was subjected to venomous attacks, suggesting that it was "trading with the enemy". Even its competitors joined in. F.C. Ihlee, although himself of German extraction, handled the situation with dignity and calm and later proved himself only too eager to turn the company over to war production. It should be noted that the representatives of Joseph Baker & Sons had orders never to make reference to the hate campaign or to the storm clouds that had hung over Westwood in the autumn of 1914.

It would come as no surprise to find that the company prepared a rebuttal of the scurrilous claims being made against it. Although this letter is undated, we believe that it must have been written at this time and was part of the company's defence. The purpose of the letter becomes clear in the final two pages.

Feeding the Troops

A typical field bakery at the beginning of WW1 might have 60 Aldershot ovens erected in a row with a trench in front. Each oven comprised a flat rectangular bottom plate with a semi-circular piece placed on top - two doors and four tie bars - each oven being approximately 1.5 metres by 1 metre.  After the ovens were erected, the back and top was covered with clay soil, wood fires were lit in each, the fire and ashes being raked out when the desired temperature was achieved, Pans of dough were then inserted using a peel - a long pole with a flat metal plate (8"x6") on the end -and the oven was closed. Each oven held 48 2lb loaves with a baking time of about 75 minutes. Four batches would be made each day in each oven. Prior to baking, the dough was held in wooden troughs, each holding 280 lbs of flour to which yeast, salt and water were added, the dough being left to ferment until ready for dividing and moulding  For obvious reasons, these operations were carried out under canvas. Bread usually reached its destination at the Front three or four days after baking.

A Union Forged in the Flames of War

Not many months after the outbreak of hostilities, the directors at Willesden (Bakers) had tried to persuade the War Office to undertake, on a big scale, the mechanical preparation of dough and baking of loaves to feed the troops on active service. E.H. Gilpin explained to War Office officials that the old field ovens used in every campaign for half a century and more were tying down men who ought to be fighting. But it seemed impossible to break down the good old military prejudice. When Gilpin got his foot in the door, it was not easily dislodged but it took a long time to find the right door. He had claimed that if large automatic bread-baking equipment were used, 20,000 men would be released for fighting. Gilpin was asked to set up a demonstration as soon as possible and, for speed, the Baker directors decided to invite Ihlee to come in: he jumped at the chance of collaboration.

The new plant, made partly at Willesden and partly at Peterborough, was ready in twelve weeks for the officials from Whitehall to inspect. A contract was drawn up between the War Office and Joseph Baker & Sons, and the Bakers entered into a sub-contract with Peterborough. The two firms divided the manufacture, Perkins being allotted the mixing machines, final moulders and draw-plate ovens, while the dividers, the first moulders and provers were turned out at Willesden. The complete unit was named the Baker Perkins Standard Army Bread Plant.

By May 1915, field bakeries began to be equipped with Perkins steam-pipe ovens - the bakery at Calais having 39 Perkins ovens by 1916 - and in the larger bakeries, machinery was introduced for mixing, dividing, scaling and moulding. However, some bakeries remained as hand-bakeries equipped with army-type Perkins Field ovens.

Installations were made in England and at the base bakeries at Rouen and Boulogne. Eventually, the whole of the British Army on the Western Front was dependent on these bakeries for bread. The Americans in France became interested and soon Baker and Perkins were erecting for them, at Dijon, baking plant which turned out a million rations of bread per day. Herbert Kirman thus found himself in charge of all of the military bread plant on the Western front. After recovering from his wounds, Major Joseph S. Baker was appointed Inspector of all military baking equipment.

In January 1918, members of the British Women's Auxiliary Army Corps were introduced to the Rouen bakery - a process aimed at freeing more men for front-line duties. The women were used on the dividing and moulding machines - usually Baker Callow dough dividers and umbrella pattern Perkins dough moulders.(See here)

[NOTE; For information on field bakeries in WW2 - see here].

Nameplate as affixed to the bakeries described above

This coming together of the two firms in their war effort could not have been more propitious. If any single step could be called the crucial one in the union of the two firms, it was the request from the Baker board that Ihlee would collaborate in the Army bread plant. (From "The History of Baker Perkins" by Augustus Muir)

Joseph Baker & Sons Ltd was, of course, also heavily engaged in other war work at Willesden. Details and photographs from the time can be found in - The History of Joseph Baker & Sons - The World War 1 Years and - Before Westwood.

January 1919 - Co-operation between the two companies continued after the end of WW1 at which time the management considered it necessary to inform their customers of the reasons why they had been unable to concentrate on meeting their needs over the previous four years. This introduction to a new joint sales catalogue predates the amalgamation which occurred on 20th July 1920.

All content © the Website Authors unless stated otherwise.