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The London Passenger Transport Board 'Makes-Do-And-Mends'

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During World War Two, British citizens were innovative in the face of shortages. The British government’s intervention into the everyday included food and clothes rationing, and the public had to 'make do and mend' with whatever they had available. Fabric was essential for war purposes, such as uniforms. By reducing civilian clothing production, factory space and labour could be freed up for war production.

'Make do and mend' on a bridge in Kilburn. Air-raid damage at Kilburn and Brondesbury Underground station. Wooden framework has been constructed to replace the missing part of the bridge and a train can be seen running over this. 1940. Image courtesy of London Transport Museum 1998/35536

The attitude of conscientious austerity spread into all parts of life, including the workplace. The London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) was no exception. Horsehair was salvaged from window blinds off former Metropolitan line carriages. These were made into brushes at Acton Works, which were used to clean machinery and dust materials in LPTB workshops.

Article about salvaging horsehair from window blinds from former Metropolitan line carriages which were made into brushes at Acton Works. March 1943. Archive ref num: LT000030/042 Pennyfare_042_00001

Making the most out of resources available, LPTB used its factories and trained staff to manufacture war equipment. LTPB produced 20,000 gun components, 80,000 sea mine components, 101,000 parts for Bailey bridges, and 158,000 2 inch shells. Vehicles were also manufactured; 897 lorries were assembled and tested, 49 breakdown lorry bodies were constructed, 55 bridging pontoons were built for the campaign in North-West Europe; and 510 armored fighting vehicles were overhauled. 42 tanks were altered and equipped for mechanical bridge laying; 20 Sherman tanks were modified to work in 10 feet of water for use in the D-Day landings; and over 250,000 assemblies and components were constructed for armored fighting vehicles.

Message to staff from Frank Pick, Vice Chairman, asking staff to do whatever they can to assist in the war effort. Also states how LPTB resources can be “applied to the greatest effect towards the purposes of war”. November 1939. Archive ref num: LT000030/018 Pennyfare_Nov_1939_00001

Nearly 5 miles of new tube tunnel, intended for the Central line between Leytonstone and Gants Hill, were converted and equipped as an aircraft component factory for the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The tunnels were used by the electronics manufacturer Plessey. Items assembled in the factory included wiring sets for Halifax and Lancaster bombers, field telephones, and Enigma Code-breaking “Bombes”. 4,000 people worked in the tunnels for the four years that it was in use.

Photograph showing factory workers at Plessey wartime factory, Central line tunnels, Redbridge. 23 July 1941. Image courtesy of London Transport Museum 1998/36010

Volunteers were also requested to support production of aircraft supplies. Following an invitation to staff to do war work at the end of their duties, 160 volunteered at once. A photograph shows female volunteers sitting at a long bench trimming electrical wire to specified lengths.

Article showing LPTB volunteers working to make aircraft parts in their spare time. October 1942. Archive ref num: LT000030/078 Pennyfare_037_00001

Staff drafted into wartime posts were released from their duties once the war was over. On completion of his war-time post overseeing all road-passenger services in Wales, Mr C.E. Ayres returned to his duties at LPTB after his skills were used under the Ministry of War Transport. Ayres resumed his duties as an Operating Superintendent (Country Buses & Coaches).

Article announcing a staff member's completion of duties in Wales. September 1945. Archive ref num: LT000030/078 Pennyfare_072_00009

Having been released from his duties as Director of Tank Design, this Chief Engineer returned to duties at London Passenger Transport Board. Durrant would go on to lead the team of engineers who developed the Routemaster bus.

Article announcing A. A. M. Durrant's return to duties. September 1945. Archive ref num: LT000030/078 [Pennyfare_072_00009]

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