Kingston Aviation
Harry Webb
Transcript: 3
Dilutees: war-time factory staff

Canbury Park Road was limited in production capacity and Hawker Aircfraft developed a new factory at Langley, near Slough, geared to the mass production of the Hurricane and other aircraft. Skilled staff were transfered from Kingston to Langley and their places were taken by people conscripted in to support the war effort. This was a process driven by Lord Beaverbrook, the wartime Minister of Aircraft Production.

They opened up a plant in the old wallpaper factory at the, I think it was at Langley. I imagine it must have been in ‘forty one’.

They opened this factory and they took about, I’m guessing, but probably half if not more of the work, of the skilled workforce there. They filled all the vacant positions, having lost so many people, with, – the term they used was, ‘Dilutees’. In other words people that were directed by the authorities to go and work in the, in a factory for the war effort. And this was a, was a most remarkable mix of people. Not necessarily on, on working machines but doing associated jobs.

We had directors from London theatres. In the Inspection, I can remember we had a Russian Jew – I believe he’d suffered pretty badly. The girls from the, the girls with a Secondary School education, with a bit of knowledge of maths and so forth, were on the Inspection. But on the other hand you had people that had never been in a factory. We had one oldish fellow who’d spent his life as a barrow boy. We had the odd vagrant that had, I suspect, had never been inside a factory before. And we had, of course many, many housewives whose husbands were serving but had got no engineering background at all. Some of them had never read a rule in their lives, much less an accurate piece of micrometer or anything.

A precision instrument.

A precision instrument. But it was quite remarkable, the ladies seemed to be able to apply themselves to the mass production, very well.