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Westwood Works 1903-2003

Westwood Works in World War 2

The Westwood Men who went to War

Inevitably some of the Westwood employees were called up, or volunteered, for Active Service. By 1940 there were 193 Westwood men in the armed forces and many other highly skilled technical staff had been loaned to Government Departments. By 1944, the number called up had reached nearly 400.

Each man left with an undertaking that, after the war, they would have priority for re-engagement over everybody doing like work who had joined the Company's service after they left. All received a gratuity and a system of allowances, administered by a special Committee of the Board. (See also - "Prisoners of War" below). By 1942 some younger women employees had also joined the Forces.

By 1942 some younger women employees had also joined the Forces.

A quarterly "newsletter" had been sent to each serving ex-employee since the outbreak of War and many appreciative replies with interesting news from the different War Fronts were received. The Company was represented in several branches of the Services during the landings on D-Day.

NOTE: A similar 'newsletter' was sent from Baker Perkins Inc, Saginaw to all its employees on active service. Copies of some of these can be seen by clicking here.

Regrettably, twenty of those who left Westwood lost their lives and their names are recorded on the Westwood Works Roll of Honour, 1939-1945 below.

Manning problems continued even after the cessation of hostilities. In 1945, Westwood welcomed back 100 men from Service but cancellation of deferment of younger men and youths led to a net loss of 60 skilled workers. The next year, 130 men were welcomed back but 95 more young operatives were called to the colours. 56 men and six women returned for the services in 1947 and 14, mainly apprentices were called up.

384 employees had joined HM Forces before VJ Day and of these 277 returned to the company, 87 did not do so and 20 are recorded as killed or missing.

Prisoners of War

As indicated above, the Company continued to be concerned with the welfare of its employees after they had joined the Forces and particularly should they have been taken prisoner by the enemy. An Internal Memo from December 1941 addressed this issue:

"By arrangement with the Red Cross organisation, relatives of prisoners of war are permitted to send out a parcel every three months.

Up to the present, four of our fellows have been taken prisoner, and on behalf of the directors I have written to relatives a follows:-

'The directors have heard with great regret of the fact that your son/husband is a prisoner of war.

The Board would like to add something to the quarterly parcels which you are undoubtedly sending through the Red Cross. If therefore you will undertake to add 10 shillings worth of suitable goods to your quarterly parcel, and will advise Mr -------- that this is being done by the Board, we shall be pleased to send you 10 shillings every three months for this purpose. It has been decided that this arrangement will date back to the time that your son/husband was taken prisoner'.

Will you kindly inform the Shop Committee accordingly as its members may be able to help by giving me names of any of our men who may be taken prisoner in the future".

Some Visitors from Abroad

Following America's entry into the War, many Baker Perkins Inc, Saginaw employees joined the Services and found themselves in England. G.E. Toulmin, then Baker Perkins' Company Secretary, issued an invitation to all Saginaw personnel to visit Westwood Works should they get the chance. This was not easy as getting sufficient leave to make the journey to Peterborough was to say the least difficult - as Lewis Jex said - " My one regret upon leaving England was that I had not visited the plant in Peterborough. We were stationed in Southern England and it would have required several days travel on a British train to reach there. During my service there I was never able to get more than a day off at a time and then too, anyone who has travelled on a British train for any length of time can appreciate the horrible aspects of such a trip".

But some did make it. Frank Messner reported back to "Baker Perkins News":

"I just wanted you to know that at last I got the chance to see the Baker Perkins plant in England and I must say I really enjoyed every minute I was there. They really showed ma a good time; and while I was walking through the plant it made me feel as if I was right back home and, believe me, I really got lonesome for the old place. I was surprised at the things they had in the plant. I thought they'd never have as many things as they have back home.

Mr Blake, the personnel manager, showed me around and he is a very nice fellow; to say nothing of Mr. Toulmin - he was exceptionally nice and I had quite a chat with him. I met quite a few other men I have a lot of things to tell the men back home who are well known over here at the plant.

They were really very deep into war work and most of all I was interested in some of the things that the plant back home wasn't making. It felt swell to see some ovens again. They were making quite a few. As for the welders in the plant - they really know their stuff and most of them were girls.

I was quite an attraction there because I was the first American sailor to visit the plant and quite a few had never seen one. I was swamped with a lot of questions and I also had a lot of questions to ask them. Everyone treated me swell and I must say again that I had a grand time. They had quite a few of our Army boys visiting the plant and I know that they'll say the same as I".

Carl W. Wise wrote back to "Baker Perkins News" from France soon after - "Hitting the Normandy beach at D plus very few, seeing a lot of fireworks and spending a lot of time in foxholes".

"I have long been intending to write to you about the wonderful reception I received when a friend and I visited the English Plant of Baker Perkins Ltd in Peterborough, but things began happening so fast right after our visit that I’ve just been too tied up to do much about it. The reception we received certainly left nothing to be desired. Despite the fact that we dropped in on Mr Baker unexpectedly, no stone was left unturned to make us feel very welcome and ‘at home’. We were taken on a complete tour of the Plant by Mr McDougal and much to my surprise it proved to be considerably larger than our place in Saginaw. There weren’t too many pieces of familiar equipment, such as rounders, mixers and so forth around but there were enough to remind me strongly of Saginaw. Because of censorship restrictions I cannot mention any of the things I saw there but I can say that the progressive production methods and the time and material saving ideas they have put into practice could not fail to be an inspiration to anyone having the privilege of seeing the inside. After the tour we were treated to an excellent dinner where we had the pleasure of meeting several of the Executives and their wives. Most of them have, at some time in the past, visited Saginaw and had pleasant memories of our fair city. As a consequence we found many subjects for conversation and time passed altogether too quickly. When at length it became time for us to leave, we departed with the feeling that our visit was by far the most pleasant and enjoyable experience of our stay in England.”


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