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Wartime Reminiscences

Building Mosquitos at the Standard:

A standard built Mosquito, like the ones John Hindmarsh worked on

I found the following article on the BBC website where contributors are invited to record their memories of World war II. It is reproduced with their permission and acknowledgement of the BBC copyright.

Article Contributed by John Hindmarsh

Location of story: Coventry UK

I elected not to return to grammar school education when my parents and family moved from Newcastle to Coventry in April 1943, when I had just turned 14. In the spirit of the 'doing my bit' I obtained work at the Standard Motor Co factory, Canley, Coventry. I was first employed in the Time Office; to which all prospective employees reported. I looked so young the boss took pity on me and employed me there until I was 15, but did not disclose his reason at the time. Meanwhile I traversed this huge and diverse factory site each morning to collect each employee's 'clock card' for marking up and then returned same to the card holders in the afternoon. The factory's war production covered manufacture of the Blenheim Bomber and the De Haviland Mosquito Fighter/Bomber, together with military vehicle engine production and sundry items; employing some 4,500 personnel.

At age 15, I coaxed a reluctant Mr Harrison into arranging a job for me in the Mosquito Shop and started work with the 'Lapping Up Gang'; where the 2 quite separate halves of the fuselage are brought together, clamped in a jig array and sealed with simple slats of plywood top and bottom, glued and screwed, inside and out along the fuselage length. The design, acceptance and eventual manufacture of this brilliant all wood aircraft is of course a story on its own. Similarly to the fuselage production, the wings were made alongside, assembled from a vast collection of detail -bits- supplied by the 3 companies who were in peacetime engaged in Rolls Royce and Bentley car body production. Mulliners is one I remember. Production was about 2 or 3 each week and wings and fuselage were individually covered in 'madapalin' -Irish linen yo you and me- and sprayed and marked -with RAF Insignia- before transport on 'Queen Mary' low loaders to Ansty Aerodrome on the outskirts of Coventry. There, engine and control surface and equipment installation took place before a brief test flight; invariably on a flight path that took them over the factory at some point to boost the pride and dedication of we on the ground. As the 'youth' on the lapping up gang; I learnt to use carpenters' tools of plane, drill screwdriver and hammer; sufficient for me to spend most of my 50 hour week, including of course Saturday morning, inside the fuselage with pre-glued strip of plywood that I pinned and screwed into precise position. The 'wander lamps' and very confined space together with the vapours from oozing glue made work very uncomfortable and yet I never lost a youthful -perhaps innocent- enthusiasm for the job. The sustaining reason was a genuine feeling that I too was fighting the war in my own small way.

My work continued until VJ Day; whereupon very shortly after; production ceased and all employees on aircraft production were made redundant. At age 15 I had joined No 120 Standard Motors Squadron, ATC and had wartime flying experience flights at local airfields. We were all mad keen to be old enough to enlist -at age 17/6months but end of conflict beat us to it.

On the home front my family had found a 'slightly' bomb damaged house that had been "repaired" that they bought for £600 -on a mortgage of course- and we 'foreigners' from Geordieland found our new roots in a blitzed and largely savagely destroyed Coventry; until at age of 17/6months I enlisted in the RAF; remaining in continuous service until retirement in 1983 in the rank of Squadron Leader.

Needless to say I will keep in touch with this project and through archive information within the Coventry Council website, research and add any other relavent data that may be required. Of course there may be others who would recall a similar story of their wartime experience at the 'Standard'; particularly members of 120 Squadron.

There are an astonishing 47,000 more wartime stories available at: including others about the Standard Motor Company that I will try to feature here later