Friday, 14 August 2009

Summervale Origins.

Due to the heavy bombing of London during WW2, the Government decided to implement a plan for the dispersal of factories and their laboratories to safer regions, in order that production could be continued.
Standard Telephones & Cables was one of those to receive a direction order towards the end of nineteen forty.

STC comprised several specialist divisions and each was to move to a different region.
The Thermionic Valve Division, based at North Woolwich, comprised specialists in the design & manufacture of transmitting and receiving communication valves; as well as wide range of vacuum devices such as Xray tubes, as used in hospitals. (Some of the more powerful transmitting stations that transmitted news and propaganda to the Middle east and beyond, used STC valves and equipment.)
Prior to WW2, with foresight, the company had started to strengthen it's Research & development (R& D) unit and set up Development Laboratories in two private houses in Eltham, London.
Specialist were pulled in from every source in the company and other hi-tech establishments, to meet a strategy laid down for high frequency communication techniques. What became known as Radar was one very important aspect.

Another unit, also at Woolwich, the Crystal Division, with skills that provided the much needed control over radio inter-communication; between aircraft and their bases in particular.

The Valve ( often called Tube) and Crystal divisions were directed to Ilminster by the Ministry Of Aircraft Production (MAP). Crystal manufacturing and Valve Laboratories were to use an unfinished new school in Ditton Street. Valve manufacturing to be established in Dowlish Ford Mills; once used as a rope making factory.

Skipping the complex operation of site preparation and transfer of equipment, key staff reported in groups at London's stations and were met, for example, at Chard Junction. From the collection point they were bussed & distributed around the area as arranged by the billeting office. Only a few men with wives and family were able find accommodation immediately; the rest being billeted within the area. (A very difficult and stressful stage in a rural community with so little extra housing space. It generated many a human story, and a few laughs as well.) The major part of the transfer was completed about November nineteen forty.
The housing situation was made even more acute when labour from other regions was directed, by the government, to Ilminster. A considerable labour force having been recruited from the surrounding area.

Strong pressure was applied to the MAP in response to the difficult conditions and it was decided to supply twenty-five two unit huts to accommodate fifty families; in order of priority. The MAP acquired the site from a local farmer on the grounds that he would have first offer to purchase when it was no longer required.
The site was established early in nineteen forty two.

As for the name of the site, many farms had a summer meadow for their cattle and, as it was in a small valley, what better than Summervale!

The following will be of interest:-
1. Ilminster's first Evening School started as a works school; It was formally setup to enable staff to complete the courses they had started prior to the move. It was quickly extended to cater for local needs and had tutors from within the company.
2. Ilminster's Entertainment Society was initiated by company staff and many fine shows were produced: St.Mary's hall became a centre of activity with tea and snacks when rations permitted.
3. A 'grounded grid triode', the heart of a special radar device, produced in the labs', enabled the German cruiser 'Scharnhorst' to be tracked by the RAF and ultimately destroyed.
4. A crystal was designed, at the request of the MAP, to enable the RAF to keep in contact with a base in England on the long journey to Italy; the objective was to deliver the first long range bomb load ... just to show them it could be done!
5. The first 'power transistor' in Europe was developed in Ilminster after WW2.

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