The Town played a vital role with industry, airfields and a major railway centre. The flat landscape meant there were many airfields including RAF Peterborough, Westwood, which was a major RAF training centre.
Local people volunteered for Military Service but those in ‘reserved occupations’, (jobs important to the war effort) were not conscripted but often spent their spare time in Civil Defence e.g. Home Guard and Auxiliary Fire Service. Businesses set up their own firewatchers while first-aiders and plane spotters were essential. National Service became compulsory for unmarried women aged between 20 and 30, then up to 50 in 1943, unless they had children under 14. Many joined the various women’s forces and nurses were attached to all the Services. Women worked in factories making war machines, ammunition, clothing or parachutes. Engineering industries such as Perkins Engines and Baker Perkins switched to wartime production supplying engines, guns, torpedoes and manufacturing machinery. Amidst this, dancing at local hotels and cinema-going were popular and there were several cinemas, showing films three times a day. Foreign servicemen became familiar sights on the street. They included including Americans, French and Poles, many of the latter remaining in the city at the end of the war.
Peterborough was not a prime target for bombs, so the city received 1496 London evacuees. Brick air raid shelters were built in the city centre. There were 644 Air Raid Alert warnings and bombs were hitting Bridge Street and the Lido. Raids of high explosive and incendiary bombs continued to 1942.
Peterborough Cathedral was hit by incendiary bombs but damage was limited by the quick reaction of the fire-watchers.
Perkins engineering was founded in a small office in Peterborough, UK, in 1932. It was founded by two men, Frank Perkins and Charles Chapman; Frank a superlative salesman and Charles an engineering genius. Their focus was on the diesel engine and their belief that it could revolutionise the motor industry with high performance and low running costs. Peterborough was the perfect place to start the business as it had excellent transport links and so could ensure rapid delivery of products.
Its first high-speed diesel engine was the 4 cylinder Vixen followed by the more powerful version, the Wolf. With its success in the motor industry it expanded into the agricultural industry.
During the Second World War Perkins was instrumental n its production of diesel engines for the war effort.
In 1947, production was moved to the Eastfield site in Peterborough.
It was in 1910 that Frederick Sage & Co. Ltd, an expanding company of shopfitters and woodworkers, opened a large factory in Walton. The position of the factory, close to the Great Northern railway ensured easy transport of its finished products.
In the First World War the company branched out into the making of aeroplanes, initially under sub-contract, making a sea plane, the Short 184, but later designing and building their own aircraft.
After the end of the First World War the company closed down its aircraft design department and returned to cabinet making and shop fitting, having prestigious commissions from, amongst others, Harrods, Selfridges and Peterborough Town Hall! During the Second World War they again turned to aircraft production, building forward fuselages for Airspeed Horsa gliders, and after the war again returned to their original products.
The Walton factory left the ownership of Sage & Co. in 1936. During the Second World War it became the Royal Ordnance Factory, making air launch torpedoes. Perkins Engines used the factory from 1957 for twenty two years. The site later lay unused for many years until it was demolished in 2010, except for its Grade II listed water tower.
Secret Peterborough, Bull, June & Vernon, Amberley Publishing, 2018
The Town played a vital role with industry, airfields and a major railway c…
Perkins engineering was founded in a small office in Peterborough, UK, in 1…
It was in 1910 that Frederick Sage & Co. Ltd, an expanding company of…