From Chimney Pots to Boot ScrapersCharacter Study

War Work

The first war that records show the Works’ to have been involved in is the Crimean in 1855 when it supplied two locomotives to Balaclava for the Army.

During World War I, about 20% of the Wolverton workforce volunteered and went off to join up. During this time, the ambulance trains were being built with a greatly reduced workforce. Among the numerous carriages were those dedicated to staff, to patients, the pharmacy, kitchen and dining cars and isolation cars. In total, around 368 coaches were converted for use as ambulance trains at Wolverton. Eventually, they were sent to France.

When it looked likely that a second world war would occur, the Works were once again asked to be prepared to build more ambulance trains. On top of this, in 1938, the Company was asked to design a tank and also to manufacture Hawker Hurricane wings. In 1941, the repair of Whitley bombers was moved to Wolverton and in 1943 the repair of Hurricane wings. The Works’ sheds were large enough to incorporate such casualties and the Works were adjusted accordingly. Since Wolverton was involved in such important war work, it was thought that it would be an obvious target for enemy bombers during WWII. In order to prevent recognition as a factory, it was painted in camouflaged colours, the remains of which can still be see on the north end of the curtain wall along Stratford Road and on the derelict buildings opposite the Tesco’s car park

On the corner of Radcliffe Street and Stratford Road, on the external wall surrounding the Catholic church, are the remains of two pill boxes, placed there to keep an eye on anyone approaching the Works. They can still be viewed from the outside but one has internally been turned into a shrine.

Ambulance train interior
Ambulance train interior

By Geoffrey Ealden, Anna McEvoy, Julia Newman, Andra Roach, Peter Smith