|Come 1939 and production had to be switched to meet other
needs. Hollowware continued on a much smaller scale and
attention now turned to bomb tails and other components, mortar
bomb casings, small smoke floats (used to generate smoke screens
at sea) and countless other things. This put a huge load on
those of us in the tool room, who had to work all hours to
provide new tools and equipment.
The Spinning Shop, where the
stretch marks resultant from pressing were removed by a method
of spinning on lathes, was largely re-equipped with turret and
capstan lathes, used for machining various items. Almost all of
the operators were Scottish girls, brought from north of the
border, and there was a Scottish tool setter who was inevitably
known as Jock. There were also several Irish people who had been
"directed", as it was called, to Bradley's. And, if this were
not a sufficiently polyglot work force, we also had Italian and
German prisoners of war doing labouring and other manual work;
but we never had both nationalities at the same time. Relations
with them were good, particularly the Germans, and at least one
of them married a local girl.
This sort of thing happened up and down the country and
hundreds of work places experienced similar "invasions".
||A bomb fitted with a tail
made at Bradley's.
However I remember in particular two Czech refugees both of whom were
One was Dr Adler whose doctorate was in metallurgy, we
understood. He was an engineer with an inventive turn of mind
and he introduced a number of new ideas and techniques to help
overcome the shortage of various materials immediately after the
The second was Theodore Appenzeller, a young man who came to
work alongside me in the tool room.
Czechoslovakia, it seems,
was then a country whose democratic system and life style were
very similar to England's. In fact it was said that they were
similar to us in all aspects except that they had a President
while we had the Monarchy. Their English was excellent: Theodore
told me that in most of their schools English was a mandatory
subject. On arriving in England, via Poland and Sweden, he was
puzzled, he said, by the advertisements he saw on the buses and
in the streets. He knew what was meant when one asked "Did you
clean your teeth today?" but was completely foxed by "Did you
Maclean your teeth today?" Having always been used to
single-deckers he was initially very wary of double-decker
buses; he thought they might topple over. I was saddened nearly
twenty years later to learn that he been killed in a road
Mike Doubleday adds: Hermon Bradley's wife was
a "Bird" of the "Bird's Custard Powder" family. During the war
he stayed, Monday to Friday, at the Midland Hotel in Birmingham,
having moved his family out of the West Midlands to avoid the
bombing. In fact it was there that he first met Turner-Hood, who
became post war MD.
Mike Doubleday's account:
My father, Clifford Norman, was the son of Norman Doubleday, the
Works Manager who succeeded his father, Norman, in the post.
My father never worked at Bradley's but lived at "Penrhyl" for
the first 25 years of his life. He often talked about the
firm and about "Penrhyl" to my mother, Margaret Doubleday (nee
Hill). And my mother has been re-telling the story to me.
This is what she tells me about World War 2:-
During the early
years of World War II, the large cellar at "Penrhyl" was
equipped with central heating by Bradley's. This despite the
fact that the rest of the house was heated by coal fires which
was then, of course, the norm. The cover story for the work was
that the cellar was being converted into an air raid shelter for
the use of the family. But the real reason was more
During the war Bradley's, as you know, went over to munitions
work - mostly bomb casings and that sort of thing - and the Air
Ministry were very concerned that all documents and drawings
etc. related to this should be kept in a secure location, both
from the point of view of secrecy and of safety should the works
be bombed. They were insistent that the works offices were
not secure enough, so the chosen location was the cellar of the
Works Manager's house, ie "Penrhyl"; the heating was
installed to prevent these important documents from
deteriorating through damp etc..
Very few people knew of this as some of these drawings etc.
were classified "top secret" at the time. Obviously all
the people in the house knew, but nothing was said of it until
the war was safely over and then my father Clifford Doubleday,
was able to tell my mother about it.
At the end of the war the heating remained and apparently it
was a great boon to my grandmother who used to dry her washing
My mother also recalled that during the war Bradley's went
over to 24 hour working, employing a two, 12 hour, shift system,
7am to 7pm and 7pm to 7am. Norman, my grandfather, used to
be picked up by the works chauffeur (a man named Williams) at
6am to go to the factory and oversee the end of the night shift
and the start of the day shift. He then went home at 9am
for breakfast, walked back to the factory for 10am, stayed until
5pm, back home for dinner, then back to the factory at 6pm to
close the day shift and start the night shift. He would
often then stay until 11pm despite having to be back at 6 the
following morning. This working pattern took a terrible
toll on his health. Despite this however, sometime after
the war, a shopkeeper who ran a business on the Willenhall Road
said to my mother: "Your father in law had a cushy number during
the war. I used to see him strolling in about 10 in the
morning and he'd be back home at 5." Such is life!!
I mentioned that Hermon Bradley moved his family out of the
Midlands during the war. My mother recalls that they went
to a home the family had in Wales (I speculate whether it was at
"Penrhyl" in Brecon - hence the name of the house?). It
seems that one weekend some Air Ministry people needed a meeting
with Hermon away from prying eyes and Norman, as works
manager, was involved. Hermon suggested that they meet at
his Welsh weekend home - it was quite large apparently, more of
a country house. Every weekend he drove down from Bilston
to Wales in his high powered sports car and on the weekend in
question took Norman with him. Apparently Norman said later that
it was the most terrifying drive of his life! As a young
man Hermon had been a racing car enthusiast (he'd driven at
Brooklands etc.) and it seems that the bug was still with him.
The speeds were hair raising apparently! Quite how he got
hold of the petrol to fuel such a car during the war was a
mystery which many speculated on, but then as his factory was
engaged in vital war work I guess that "the powers that be"
looked after him.
I found that fact that the cellar at "Penrhyl" was a top
secret document vault fascinating. One thing's for certain: if
the Germans had known about, it the house probably wouldn't
still be here!