Below are pages from a book produced by Sir Ivor Baker at the end of World
1934: Preparing for War
1939?: Decontamination Squad
1940: Baker Perkins Volunteers
1941: Baker Perkins Home Guard
1941: German reconnaissance photograph of Westwood Works
Translation of text on German reconnaissance photograph
Background to the German reconnaissance photograph
1941: Home Guard Spotters Log
1942: Letter of thanks to Baker Perkins from Lord Gort, Malta
Baker Perkins ARP lapel badge (no. 15)
Date?: Testing a Mobile Bakery for the Naafi
The Baker Perkins Roll of Honour
Westwood Works "under attack"
With reference to the German reconnaissance photographsshown above. Despite its undoubted importance to the war effort, Westwood Works did not sustain any significant damage from enemy action during WW2. There is one event, however, that is still talked about today - the day that a German raider "strafed the Drawing Office". This was one of the first bits of 'history' that was learnt when first joining the company and, as with similar accounts, the tale varies according to the teller but there is little doubt that it has a firm basis in fact: The available evidence suggest that the event took place no later than 1942.
Both Ruth and Harold
Holmes (retired Baker Perkins employees), remember vividly seeing a German aircraft
strafing the multi-storey office block with bullets, some of which also hit
the "Barracks" in New England.
Florence Morgan remembers: - “A young girl, whose name I cannot remember, was in the drawing office when a German plane was raiding over Peterborough and a bullet went through the office window and whizzed past her nose. She fainted about half an hour later!!”
Florence goes on to say - "One particular day when I was working in the cost office on the comptometers, a German plane (could have been the one that fired through the drawing office but perhaps not), came over. Two girls were walking over the bridge outside BP and the pilot aimed at them. They ran into Baker Perkins screaming in terror and they were taken with the other workers into the strong room which was used during the war as an air raid shelter".
There is also a story of a milkman being "chased by the German gunner" down a passageway in Westwood Street!
Alan Dann, a keen aircraft enthusiast then and since, was attending Walton School in 1942 and clearly remembers hearing, one lunchtime, the characteristic uneven drone of a German aircraft. He saw, what he believes to be a Dornier bomber, flying from North to South along the GN railway line and heard the sound of gunfire. He recalls that it was followed a few minutes later by a Spitfire and suggests that the German plane might have been shot down in the Whittlesea area.
Gordon Steels is able to confirm at least part of this story - "I have also been told the story about a bullet passing a drawing board I think on the 2nd floor DO, but I did not observe the incident. It's the first time I have heard about the girls being shot at, but I have no reason not to believe the story. I believe that it was the same incident when bullets were put through a Gas Holder at the gas works east of the town.
It must be remembered that news was suppressed during the war and people sometimes would not be aware of incidents on their very doorstep. The event would not appear in the local newspaper which like all publications then were heavily censored. It was called blue-pencilling.
All sorts of tales would be spread some of which no doubt be true and others perhaps made up, but the incident of a German raider flying low along the local main railway line north to south with a trigger happy gunner on board is an accurate story."
Further evidence is supplied by another ex-employee who witnessed the event. Roy Brunswick left St Marks School in July 1941 and puts the date towards the end of 1940, - "Possibly a Thursday afternoon - around 1.30 on a dull afternoon with low cloud". He recalls damage also being caused to the roof of a semi-detached house in Broadway, a "knob" being shot off a gable end ridge tile during this incident. Roy has recently seen photographs of Broadway on the Peterborough Library's stall at the 2009 Local History Fair including one of the semi-detached houses in question - "One had a knob, the other did not. This is not proof of memory of the event, but it is a coincidence"!
Jim Deboo - a young apprentice at the time, was working regular nights and thus missed the excitement. He does, however recall a night when the engine sheds at New England were bombed and a piece of railway line was blown over the factory boundary fence, landing in the area between the Pattern Shop and the Pattern Stores. It is understood that the event happened at 22-45 on 15 Jan 1941 in New England yard. 3 locos, 112 wagons, a water crane, wagon repair shops, signalling and offices were damaged and a loco derailed. One person was killed and 12 were injured. (Source, with acknowledgements, Back Track magazine September 2007).
The following story appeared in the June 1965 issue of "Group News". It is possible that it refers to the same raid - the night of 15th January 1941 - as described above. If anyone can confirm that this is the case, we would be very pleased to hear from you.
Mr. Ivan King Of Baker Perkins Ltd, Peterborough wrote about a sobering experience that happened to his uncle when he was working on night shift at Westwood Works:
“The German bombers and fighters had come over to knock out the goods yards and railway station. While the attack was going on my uncle and three of his friends proceeded to the top of the main 5-story building to watch.
Several parts of the town were burning and the sky was well lit so the four of them kept well to the side in the shadows. But one of them was smoking and a passing fighter saw it and proceeded to come in low over the building firing thick and fast. Luckily no one was hit but they returned to their work quicker than they had come out"
David Gray's website (with grateful acknowledgements) - provides perhaps the final piece of the jigsaw . Under the heading "Air Raids in Peterborough During WW2", David states - "31st October 1940, the railway lines were machine gunned from a low flying enemy bomber. One man, Mr Harry Hewit, was wounded whilst aboard his train".
Oral history is a rather inexact science but it has proved possible to arrive at a believable account of the happening. It would seem that the event, far from being a myth, actually occurred on 31st October 1940, at around 1.30 on a dull afternoon with low cloud. We have been unable to confirm that it was a Dornier bomber or if the aircraft was shot down on the outskirts of Peterborough as suggested. If anyone can add to this story we would be very pleased to hear from you.
Some other events that happened adjacent to the Works involving friendly aircraft include:
When Florence Morgan first went to work at BP she was looking out of a fifth floor of the typing pool, watching a plane coming into land on Westwood Airfield - just behind Westwood Works. The plane was taxiing along the runway when suddenly the nose went down and the tail went up. When the plane ground to a halt the pilot stepped out as if it was quite a normal occurrence.
Perhaps only loosely related to Westwood Works but a serious event affecting the homes of Baker Perkins workers - in September 1941 an RAF aircraft crashed on the home of Mr. E. Goodson at 83, Willesden Avenue. There were a few narrow escapes for people on the ground but no-one was seriously hurt. The trainee pilot and his instructor bailed out and were unhurt.
Jim Farrow tells us that during WW2, the Strong Room - in the basement of the
1914 Office Building - was also used as an air raid shelter for the employees
in the adjacent office areas. It housed blankets and fire extinguishers.
Some Employees at Westwood during the early part of WW2
Florence (Graham) Morgan joined Baker Perkins in September 1938 at the age of 14. She worked in the Typing Pool before becoming a comptometer operator. Florence left the Company in 1942 but kept an address book containing details of those she worked with at the time.
Olive Anker - was head of the Progress Office when Florence first joined the company.
Audrey Baxter - worked in the offices
Mrs J. Burkey - worked in the offices. Her husband had joined the Fleet Air Arm and was one the first to be declared as a prisoner of war.
Emma Burman, Florence’s sister-in-law - was the head comptometer operator.
Ken Calvert - worked in the factory but was called up to serve in the army in about 1941. Florence has recorded his rate of pay (piecework rate?) while he was at Westwood as one shilling and five and three eighths pence.
Barbara Ewington - worked in the offices.
June Gibson - worked in the Progress Office.
Miss Jean Hardwick – worked in the Typing Pool.
Dorothy Hindle – worked in the Progress Office.
Doreen Jacobs – worked in the offices. Her father was one of the chauffeurs at Baker Perkins at that time.
Barbara Knight – worked in the Typing Pool but transferred later to an office in the factory.
Betty Leach – worked in the offices. Her brother - Russell Leach - was in the "works".
Rene Leading – was a comptometer operator.
Agnes Martin – worked in the offices.
Cecilia Olive Morse - worked in the offices.
Iris Moult - worked in the offices.
Louise May - Worked with Mrs Burkey
Ena Robinson - worked in the offices.
Winnie Roberts - worked in the offices.
Joy Tyler - worked in the offices.
Hilary Wyldbore – worked in either the Cost Office or the Typing Pool.
If anyone has memories of any of those listed – or who is able to add to the list – please get in touch.