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War, Industrial Mobilisation and Society in Northern Ireland, 1939–1945

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 May 2007

PHILIP OLLERENSHAW*
Affiliation:
School of History, University of the West of England, Oldbury Court Road, Bristol, BS16 2JP; Philip.Ollerenshaw@uwe.ac.uk.

Abstract

Archive-based regional studies can contribute much that is new to the economic, political and social history of the Second World War. This paper considers the process of industrial mobilisation in Northern Ireland, a politically divided region which was part of the United Kingdom but which had its own government. It examines the changing administrative framework of war production, the debate on military and industrial conscription, the role of women and the economic implications of geographical remoteness from London. The paper adds to our limited knowledge of regional mobilisation and contributes to a neglected aspect of the history of Northern Ireland.

Guerre, mobilisation industrielle et société en irlande du nord, 1939–1945

Dans la nouvelle historiographie économique, politique et sociale de la seconde guerre mondiale, les études régionales fondées sur des archives peuvent apporter une large contribution. Cet article examine le processus de mobilisation industrielle en Irlande du nord, une région politiquement divisée dans l'Europe du nord avec son propre gouvernement à Belfast mais aussi partie intégrante de la Grande Bretagne. On analyse l'évolution du cadre administratif de la production de guerre, le débat sur la conscription militaire et industrielle, le rôle des femmes et les conséquences économiques de l'éloignement par rapport à Londres. Cet article ajoute ainsi de nouvelles connaissances à celles, limitées, sur la mobilisation régionale, et contribue à l'histoire de l'Irlande du nord.

Krieg, industrielle mobilisierung und gesellschaft in nordirland, 1939–1945

Auf Archivmaterial basierende Regionalstudien können viel Neues zur ökonomischen, politischen und sozialen Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges beisteuern. Dieser Aufsatz betrachtet den Prozess der industriellen Mobilisierung in Nordirland, einer politisch geteilten Region im Nordwesten Europas, die Teil Grossbritanniens war, aber eine eigene Regierung in Belfast hatte. Es werden der sich verändernde administrative Rahmen der Kriegsproduktion, die Debatte über militärische und industrielle Wehr- und Arbeitspflicht, die Rolle der Frauen und die wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen aufgrund der geographischen Entfernung von London untersucht. Der Artikel ergänzt unser begrenztes Wissen über regionale Mobilisierung und beleuchtet einen vernachlässigten Aspekt der Geschichte Nordirlands.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2007

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References

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18 For a denial that Northern Ireland was a ‘distressed area’ see the speech by Captain Hugh Dixon, government chief whip, to the Ulster Unionist Labour Association on 3 April 1939, in Belfast News-Letter, 4 April 1939.

19 Imlay, Facing the Second World War, esp. ch. 6.

20 Irish News, 17 April 1943. See also Keith Jeffery, ‘The British Army and Ireland Since 1922’, in Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery, eds., A Military History of Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 438.

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23 The Times, 29 Aug. 1939; Irish News, 5 Aug. 1939; Viscount Templewood, Nine Troubled Years (London: Collins, 1954), 243–4. There were also attacks on Irish prisoners by other inmates at Dartmoor prison: Irish News, 29 Aug. 1939. The great political significance of the executions on 7 February at Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, is clear from a letter from the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain to Hilda Chamberlain, 9 Feb. 1940, in Neville Chamberlain, The Neville Chamberlain Diary Letters, ed. Robert Self, Vol. 4, The Downing Street Years, 1934–40 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 497. I thank Glyn Stone for this reference. On the IRA campaign of the early 1920s see Hart, Peter, The IRA at War, 1916–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), ch. 6CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 See, for example, Londonderry Sentinel, 2 and 9 Jan., 24 and 29 Feb., 25 May, 1 June, 20 July and 3 Sept. 1940.

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27 Ibid., entry for 12 Aug. 1940, PRONI D/3004/D/31. For more detail on this debate see especially Barton, Brookeborough, ch. 8.

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32 Irish News, 15 May 1943.

33 Cabinet Conclusions, 21 May 1941, PRONI CAB 4/475/17. After the war the continuing employment of residence permit holders from Eire did cause a reaction in some areas: Ministry of Labour to the Manager, Londonderry Labour Exchange, 14 Jan. 1947, PRONI LAB 5/59.

34 Memorandum Submitted by the Minister of Home Affairs in Regard to Border Control, 24 April 1942, PRONI CAB 4/507/4.

35 Memorandum by the Minister of Home Affairs in regard to the Infiltration of Eire Workers into Northern Ireland, 16 March 1942, PRONI CAB 4/503/2. In just over three weeks, 10,000 applications for residence permits had been received: Belfast News-Letter, 25 Jan. 1943.

36 Belfast News-Letter, 30 Nov. 1938, 4 April 1939.

37 For a specific example see letter from Sir William Allen MP in Portadown News, 2 Nov. 1940.

38 Thoms, War, Industry and Society, ch. 1. An excellent case study of the implications of conversion to war production in Coventry is A. Shenfield and P. Sargant Florence, ‘Labour for the War Industries: the Experience of Coventry’, Review of Economic Studies, 12, 1 (1943–5), 31–49.

39 J. H. Guthrie of the Ministry of Supply to W. D. Scott of the Ministry of Commerce, 1 July 1941; J. F. Gordon, Minister of Labour, to R. T. Luney of the AEU 31 July 1941, PRONI COM 61/599.

40 Wilson Report, para. 7(c).

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42 William Hornby, Factories and Plant (London: HMSO, 1958), 91.

43 Williams, Forgotten Army, 52, 58. See also David Edgerton, ‘Public Ownership and the British Arms Industry, 1920–50’ in Millward and Singleton, Political Economy of Nationalisation, 164–5, 181.

44 Hansard (Commons), 1939–40, 362, Col. 1022, 4 July 1940.

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48 Memorandum on Rearmament, March 1938, ibid.

49 Sir Samuel Hoare to J. M. Andrews, 31 Oct. 1938, ibid.

50 Inter-Departmental Committee on Unemployment, Second Interim Report, 1 Nov. 1937, ibid.

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54 Over two years later almost £2 million had been spent by Belfast Corporation and £700,000 by private owners in repairing the damage to housing stock: Irish News, 15 Sept. 1943. The best general account of the air raids is Barton, Brian, The Blitz: Belfast in the War Years (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 1989)Google Scholar.

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56 Londonderry Sentinel, 15 May 1941.

57 Harold Macmillan to Ernest Bevin, 6 May 1941, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Macmillan Papers, Dep. 268.

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60 Wilson Report, para. 14.

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63 See, for example, War Cabinet Production Executive, Note by Sir Basil Brooke, Minister of Commerce for Northern Ireland, 8 April 1941, PRONI COM 61/460; Training of Women for War Work – Note by the Minister of Commerce, 7 Oct. 1941, PRONI COM 61/649.

64 The agreements are reprinted in Inman, Labour in the Munitions Industries, 439–42.

65 Meeting of the Area Board for Northern Ireland, 9 April 1941, PRONI CAB 3A/8.

66 Summerfield, Women Workers, Appendix B, 199.

67 W. D. Scott to Sir John Greenly, Chairman of Babcock and Wilcox, 7 April 1941, PRONI COM 60/B/2/23.

68 Diary of Sir Basil Brooke, entry for 22 July 1941, PRONI D/3004/D/32.

69 ‘Ministry of Supply and Ireland’ (no date but c. December 1918), Ministry of Munitions Records, National Archives, Kew, NAS MUN 4/6724.

70 Meeting of Harold Macmillan and Allan Young with Representatives of Chambers of Commerce of Northern Ireland, 24 April 1941, PRONI COM 28/7.

71 H. C. Gordon of the War Office (Contracts Department) to W. D. Scott, no date but c. 23 May 1938, PRONI COM 62/1/707.

72 Joseph Welch to W. D. Scott, 12 Sept. 1940, ibid.

73 Minute of 29 March 1941, ibid.

74 Meeting of the Area Board for Northern Ireland, 28 Aug. 1940, PRONI CAB 3A/89; War Work in Northern Ireland – Past and Future: A Note by the Ministry of Commerce, 21 Dec. 1940, PRONI COM 61/441, suggests that twelve or thirteen firms were by then on direct contracts.

75 Howlett, ‘“Thin End of the Wedge”?’, 248.

76 The Shipbuilder, 6 (1911), 6, cited in Philip Ollerenshaw, ‘Industry, 1820–1914’, in Kennedy, Liam and Ollerenshaw, Philip, eds., An Economic History of Ulster, 1820–1939 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), 93Google Scholar.

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79 Meeting of Harold Macmillan with Trade Union Representatives, 24 April 1941, and with the Engineering and Shipyard Employees’ Representatives, 25 April 1941, PRONI COM 28/7.

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84 Ibid., 16 Feb. 1943.

85 Notes of a Meeting on Labour Problems at Harland & Wolff, 18 Dec. 1943, PRONI COM 61/266.

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88 J. S. Buchanan, Director General of Aircraft Production, to E. H. Cooper, 3 April 1942; W. H. Denholm, Regional Technical Officer (Scotland) to E. H. Cooper, 9 April 1942, PRONI COM 61/762.

89 W. P. Kemp, Managing Director at Short & Harland, to Sir Basil Brooke, 31 March 1942, PRONI COM/60/A/2/4. For an example of output and productivity of women at one dispersal factory see Belfast Telegraph, 10 June 1942. The age range of the women was 15 to 56: Northern Whig, 19 May 1942.

90 Howlett, ‘“Thin End of the Wedge”?’, 247.

91 Note of the Prime Minister's Meeting with Sir Frederick Heaton, April 1944, PRONI CAB 9F/164/1.

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96 Ibid., 11–12.

97 Report of the Visitation of Technical Representatives from the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Scottish Region) to Northern Ireland, 13–24 Jan. 1942, CAB 9/CD/208/1.

98 Report by E. H. Cooper, 28 Jan. 1942, ibid.

99 Report of the Visitation of Technical Representatives; Proposals for the Better Utilisation of Man-Power and Plant for War Production – A Joint Recommendation by the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Commerce and Production, 18 Feb. 1942; Munitions Labour Supply Inspectorate – Press Release, 21 April 1942, ibid.

100 James Larrard, Deputy Regional Controller, Ministry of Aircraft Production, Confidential Memorandum on Northern Ireland Labour as Affected by the Housing Problem, 19 May 1943, PRONI COM 61/955.

101 Ibid.

102 Ministry of Labour for Northern Ireland, Availability of Unemployed Women Registered at Employment Exchanges, July/Aug. 1943, PRONI COM 61/958.

103 Summerfield, Women Workers, 57–60. Posters advertising for women from Northern Ireland to train as war workers in Britain stressed that they would be wanted if they were between 18 and 25 years old, not already directly employed on war work, or else unemployed: Northern Whig, 6 Oct. 1941.

104 Ministry of Labour for Northern Ireland, Availability of Unemployed Women Registered at Employment Exchanges, July/Aug. 1943, PRONI COM 61/958.

105 Special Survey of Women Workers Between the Ages of 18 and 34 in the Area Round Antrim Town, 5 July 1943, PRONI COM 61/958. This survey was the first to convince the government that the ‘hidden reserve of potential women workers was much smaller than expected’: Excerpt from the Minutes of the Cabinet Committee on Man Power, 6 Aug. 1943, ibid.

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107 Inman, Labour in the Munitions Industries, 167–75.

108 Ministry of Labour for Northern Ireland, Notes on Transfer of Labour to Great Britain, PRONI CAB 4A/89.

109 Ministry of Commerce Minute, 23 March 1942, PRONI COM 61/669.

110 Ernest Bevin to Sir Basil Brooke, 6 Nov. 1941, ibid.

111 S. L. R. Hollis to W. D. Scott, Regional Controller for Northern Ireland, 27 Feb. 1942, ibid.

112 Ministry of Production, Digest of Regional Controllers’ Replies to Questionnaire about Effect of Programme Changes, July 1943, PRONI COM 61/911. See also Parker, Manpower, 288; Angus Calder, The People's War (London: Panther, 1971 edn), 385.

113 Irish News, 28 Jan. 1943.

114 Ibid., 15 Oct. 1943.

115 Ibid., 16 Sept. 1943.

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118 Ibid., 11 and 13 April, 1940.

119 Londonderry Unemployment Position – A Note for the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, 11 Feb. 1943, PRONI COM 61/943. See also Northern Whig, 11 and 12 Feb. 1943.

120 Irish News, 15 Oct. 1943.

121 Ibid., 18 Oct. 1943.

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126 Wickham, Report on Compulsory Registration for Employment.

127 Belfast News-Letter, 4 Nov. 1943.

128 Belfast Telegraph, 5 Nov. 1943.

129 Diary of Sir Basil Brooke, entries for 25 Feb., 1 June, 3 Dec. 1943, PRONI D/3004/D/34.

130 Portadown News, 9 June 1945.

131 Minutes of the 18th Meeting of Regional Controllers, Appendix 2, 22 July 1943, PRONI COM 61/762.

132 For some detailed evidence on how one large engineering company managed the process of reorientation from wartime to peacetime production, see Directors’ Minute Book of Fairbairn Lawson Combe Barbour Ltd, PRONI D/769/1/2/5.

133 Deputation from the Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions, and Amalgamated Engineering Union on the Employment Position, 21 Dec. 1944, PRONI COM 61/1059. Fears about rising unemployment, especially the redundancy of munitions workers and disbandment of civil defence workers, surfaced at the Northern Ireland Production Council in autumn 1944: Meeting of the Production Council, 11 Oct. 1944, PRONI CAB 3A/8.

134 Prime Minister's Conference on the Unemployment Situation, 13 Feb. 1945, PRONI COM 61/1059.

135 Report by Roland Nugent to the Employment Group Committee of the Sub-Committee on Relief of Unemployment Problems during the Transition Period, 28 July 1944, PRONI CAB 4/597/4.

136 Harris, R. I. D., Regional Policy in Northern Ireland, 1945–88 (Aldershot: Avebury, 1991)Google Scholar; Scott, Peter, ‘Regional Development and Policy’, in Floud and Johnson, Cambridge Economic History of Britain: Vol. III, 339, 341, 360–1Google Scholar.