When scrap metal was vital to the war effort

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MUCH as expected, many of the specimens involved in the current spate of metal theft appear to be the less finely honed implements in the tool box.

And not least some sub species who apparently tried to hack through a high voltage cable at an electricity sub station, with predictable results.

Oh well, thieves will always be with us. But those who steal war memorials to melt down for a few quid, are the real sad life and hardly worthy of the freedoms for which those commemorated sacrificed their lives.

Such as during World War One, when in July 1916 an example of German ‘scrap’ metal was displayed in the window of Berwicks shop in Fenny Stratford.

This was in the form of a Prussian helmet which, recovered from one of the enemy trenches, had been sent home to his father by Corporal Sid Wodhams.

After the war another example of German steel was then sent to Bletchley but under more peaceful conditions.

This was a 40 foot girder, for when building the Co-op stores in Bletchley Road (mow Queensway) the firm of Tranfields found that a single section girder of this length was not available in this country. Therefore they had to order one from Krupps at Essen, Germany, which was duly shipped to a north east port.

A few years after the war the youngest son of Mr E.W. Morgan, of Duncombe Street, Bletchley, would receive the MBE for his role in recovering a large quantity of gold, and other valuable metal, aboard the White Star liner ‘Laurentic,’ which had been sunk by enemy action in January 1917.

But more locally, with just a horse and cart Edward Goodman began a scrap metal business in New Bradwell which after his death his widow relinquished to her sons, of a family of 12 children.

For nearly 30 years in a paddock opposite the Cuba Hotel she lived in a caravan and having been ill for a while it was there that she was attended by her doctors, before being removed to Northampton General Hospital, where she died aged 61.

As seen in the illustration, towards the late 1930s there came an urgent need for scrap metal for re-armament and the need became even more acute following the outbreak of war.

“Very few of us can be heroines on the battlefront, but we can all have the tiny thrill of thinking as we hear the news of an epic battle in the air, perhaps it was my saucepan that made a part of that Hurricane.”

So said Lady Reading in a radio broadcast when, as the head of the WVS, she launched a campaign to collect scrap metal.

In fact the Government had especially asked the WVS to concentrate on aluminium: ‘One ton of aluminium makes a Spitfire,’ and in 1940 Bletchley Urban District Council launched a general appeal.

A ‘salvage canvass’ began and of great surprise from Water Eaton came an aluminium pipe rack labelled, ‘A bit of the Germans’ own metal, to hit back at them.’

It had originally been part of a Zeppelin brought down at Cuffley during World War One.

In fact the need for metal was so great that although for his 63 years’ of farm work 81 year old Dick Faulkner, of Loughton, had been awarded a Long Service Certificate by the Royal Agricultural Society of England, there was no metal for the associated bronze medal.

At New Bradwell, about 1964 Fred Cox started a scrap metal business, moving to Bleak Hall Industrial Estate in May 1974.

Also at New Bradwell, at this time on the original site W Goodman Bros. were operating a scrap yard while of the same family there were three other independent companies; E. Goodman Bros. in Old Bradwell Road, New Bradwell, J.G. Goodman in Old Bradwell, and A. Goodman and Son in Bletchley.

A feature of the Newport Road yard was a large metal crown which had supposedly been used during the coronation of King George VI being then brought to Luton for the coronation celebrations of Queen Elizabeth.

As for the yard in Old Bradwell Road, here for many years was an old steam engine, which many people incorrectly thought was ‘Nobby Newport,’ from the adjacent branch line.

As for Bletchley, the scrapyard is still to be seen, with a large sign on the old United Counties bus depot.