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  1. #1
    Knowledgeable and helpful thewideeyedowl's Avatar
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    Default WW2: Munitions Factory (Cossors), Highbury

    My grandmother worked in a munitions factory in London during WW2. She was a little woman with small nimble fingers so was good at assembly work, but I am not sure whether it was bombs or ammunition that she worked on. The work was well-paid.

    The factory was Cossors, probably then based in the Aberdeen Works at Highbury in North London. My grandmother lived at Stroud Green and I have been told that the factory was "about ten minutes away" (but I'm not sure whether that was on foot or by bus).

    I am now trying to find out about Cossors but have only a small amount of info:
    Alfred Charles Cossor (1) started his original factory about 1860s-ish and it was his son, Alfred Charles Cossor (2) who started a dedicated electronics factory - they went into developing cathode ray tubes and, during WW2, did a lot of work on radar. This factory was, I believe, in Highbury and was known as the Aberdeen Works - but is probably no longer there. Years later the Cossor business was sold to Philips, I gather, and has probably been much subsumed since. However, it is the WW2 incarnation that I am interested in.

    If anyone can give any help on Cossors/Highbury/WW2 munition production there, I would be very grateful.

    Have to do other things now.

    Owl
    Families don't make sense - they make history.

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  3. #3
    Knowledgeable and helpful thewideeyedowl's Avatar
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    Default Was it radar?

    Many thanks for the photo link, forward in time to 1955. I've now managed to find some photos from 1933, on Britain from the Air. And there is quite a lot of info about Cossors in Grace's Guide and on a 'Radio Museum' site, and it also gets a mention in British History Online (under Islington).

    Cossors was one of the early developers of TV sets and claim to have sold the very first set. In 1935, a new five-story factory was built, to supplement the existing three-storey one, to accommodate many more radio workers (5000(?), did I read?) But I'm looking for 'munitions'. Hmm..

    Anyway, the more I read the more likely it seems that my grandmother would have been involved in assembly work for radio valves and/or radar systems. (Or was that a 'front' for munitions? Or was 'munitions' a front for radar?) It's a bit mystifying.

    It has always been said in the family that this grandmother worked in munitions, but the only person still living who knew her at the time is no longer a reliable witness for anything, alas, as memory just fades and the world becomes - for her - a 'misty murk'. (Very sad to see, and hard to deal with.)

    Can anyone find any mention of Cossors and munitions together?

    Off to roost.

    Owl
    Families don't make sense - they make history.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator christanel's Avatar
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    Default

    I can't see any mention of munitions in relation to Cossor in the articles I have read. This timeline from Wikipedia gives a reference to war work but not what it was.
    1938 In co-operation with the Army Cell at the Bawdsey Research Station, the company begins production development of the receiver for the GL1, the first British heavy anti-aircraft gun-laying radar.
    1939 The company switches to war production
    Cossor becomes involved in the early development of airborne IFF radar. The development team includes spy Arthur Wynn.
    IFF - Identification, friend or foe
    1943 The company moves its valve and CRT business into a new wholly owned subsidiary Electronic Tubes Ltd (ETEL) based at High Wycombe.
    1945 Secondary radar for air traffic control becomes a key area of development for Cossor.

    Hints of involvement with government agencies and defence forces but not specifically munitions. And a spy on the development team!

    Christina
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    Quote Originally Posted by thewideeyedowl View Post
    Can anyone find any mention of Cossors and munitions together?
    Not Highbury but High Wycombe!

    .....eventually the 2nd World War came and I was sent to High Wycombe on War Munitions, the work place was called Cossors , this was not my choice but the government’s. We had to show our special cards when coming in and going out of the factory, it was all very secret and severely fenced off.


    Search "My Memories by Daisy Hunt - Chesham Museum"

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  6. #6
    Knowledgeable and helpful thewideeyedowl's Avatar
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    Default Perhaps it was another munitions factory?

    Good morning, all - and many thanks for the speedy replies. Hmm...lots to think about.

    I was going on the scant piece of info from the elderly relative, which went something like this: "The best job she ever had was at Cossors. It was very well paid." I now see that perhaps I had been wrong to assume that the Cossors job was during WW2. She might have worked there afterwards - she did factory work until she retired in 1958.

    But I know she worked near home, which was the North London area round Stroud Green, Finsbury, Highbury. (So that rules out High Wycombe.) I then tried - and initially have failed - to find a munitions factory in that area of London. Have, though, come across this useful site on Sources for the History of London:
    https://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/War/londonWork.html. And that page includes this sentence:

    "Munitions of all kinds were manufactured throughout the London area in a variety of premises, such as converted factories, underground railway shelters and private basements."

    So that means that my grandmother's 'munitions factory' could have been absolutely anywhere - and there was even one in the Palace of Westminster, it says. (Eat your heart out, Guy Fawkes!)

    Still puzzled but can't be round for most of the day. Have to swoop off.

    Owl
    Families don't make sense - they make history.

  7. #7
    Knowledgeable and helpful thewideeyedowl's Avatar
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    Default ROFs, ICI and Agency Factories

    This is now starting to get very complicated…..from Wikipedia, I have discovered that there were several types of factory involved in the production of arms/munitions etc. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Ordnance_Factory

    There were Royal Ordnance Factories and then others that were built/owned by Imperial Chemical Industries – and some of these ICI factories also managed factories (known as Agency Factories) that had been constructed with finance from the Ministry of Supply. This seems to tie in with the info I found this morning about factories in London (see above post).

    My grandmother lived in London and would have worked very near to her home, so I am ruling out High Wycombe. The factory might well have been in the Highbury area. (Can we find any?) The key thing about this grandmother is that she was small and had very nimble fingers that were well suited to doing fine assembly work. So, I’m going to rule out making bullets. But what was she doing? And where?

    Off to roost.

    Owl
    Families don't make sense - they make history.

  8. #8
    Loves to help with queries David Benson's Avatar
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    She may have been working on electrical assemblies the fitted inside the munitions that caused them to go 'bang' at the appropriate time. A C Cossor would have been a likely place for that type of work. Only a guess on my part.

  9. #9
    Knowledgeable and helpful thewideeyedowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Benson View Post
    She may have been working on electrical assemblies the fitted inside the munitions that caused them to go 'bang' at the appropriate time.
    Thank you! I have now, this afternoon, found a family document that states that she worked on the assembly of fuses. Might that have been what you mentioned above? (Forgive this display of gross ignorance.)

    Owl
    Families don't make sense - they make history.

  10. #10
    Loves to help with queries David Benson's Avatar
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    I don't know much about munitions etc. but I know that most bombs are safe until they are primed and then a trigger of some sort will cause a big bang. I believe the fuse was a small electrically fired explosive which in turn set off the main explosive. I had a friend that worked at a factory during WW2 that designed a device called 'The Dartford Slip' which caused a capacitor (similar to a battery, but instantaneous) to charge as bombs 'slipped' from an aircraft. It meant the bomb would explode on impact after it had been released but were practically harmless whilst on the aircraft in case they crash landed.

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