Delta Metal in Wartime

The Non-Ferrous Industry
Tunnel Avenue, East Greenwich, S.E.IO.

ALTHOUGH the Delta Metal Co., Ltd., has been established in Greenwich since as far-back as the year 1905, little is seen or heard locally by the general public of its activities as its Works are situated rather off the beaten track at the extreme end of Tunnel Avenue on Blackwall Point, and well beyond the tunnel entrance, and its products are mainly raw materials for succeeding industries and so do not of themselves offer much of direct interest to the man in the street. Nevertheless, so important to the war effort were materials such as bronze, brass and copper that the Non-Ferrous Metal Industry was one of the very first to be reserved exclusively for such purposes.
The metal manufactured at East Greenwich found its way into literally thousands of other works up and down the country, ranging from large firms whose names are household words in the engineering trade, and who have been for many years users of Delta Alloys, to new organisations set up in all sorts of unlikely places, or to others turned over from their ordinary peace-time occupations to the job of machining components of innumerable types from rod stock for Service requirements. Indeed, it can truthfully be said that by the end of the war there was hardly even a repair garage of any size in the land which did not eventually have lathes, drilling and milling machines installed and working day and night turning out metal parts for war uses. The parts that were produced from Delta extruded bars entered into the make-up ‘of articles of every conceivable description, including as they did fuzes and primers for shells, parts and fittings of guns and torpedoes, of searchlights, and, of course, of Radar apparatus, and all the other innumerable scientific instruments brought into service or specially developed for war uses; telephone parts to, aircraft fittings-both of engines and of fuselages-ship constructional angles, tee and channel bars, and other sections for ships’ fittings used in craft of all kinds from the largest battleships to the smallest launches; components of vehicles from tanks to lorries, of speedometers, lighting equipment and so on. Indeed, though a great part of the whole range -of supply needed by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, there was sure to be found, without going very far, some component large or small that had its origin in a brass or bronze bar made at East Greenwich.
Production went on day and night throughout the war years, and the number of those employed went up to close upon 1,250. Many women came into the factory and performed valiant work handling the heavy metal rods and bars in course of manufacture, looking after the straightening machines, sorting and despatching the metal, driving trucks and lorries, and performing all kinds of other duties.
The Works had its share of enemy attention, starting with the very first heavy raid on the dock and river-side areas in September 1940, when incendiaries fell thickly in the vicinity igniting the office block, which quickly burned out. Accommodation for the staff was hastily arranged in corners of near-by buildings while the .Managing Director continued to conduct the affairs of the Company from a partially wrecked canteen dining room-and the cook produced much appreciated meals over fires built in the open near-by. A few weeks’ later H.E. bombs fell in the despatch yard, destroying a couple of lorries and doing other damage, but there was no loss of life and no one was seriously hurt. Another providential escape took place early in the following spring, when a parachute mine descended squarely upon the extensive building housing the small rod department, demolishing it completely. This took place on a Saturday night on which it had been arranged to close down the department to give some of the employees a well-earned rest, and again there was no loss of life… Practically all the specialised and irreplaceable machinery was dug out of the ruins, repaired, patched and welded, and was re-established in temporary sheds on the site and in other parts of the factory and running again within a fortnight. Thereafter, although upon sundry occasions many more bombs and incendiaries landed all around, no more serious damage occurred, other than occasional blast, and production continued more or less unhampered, running as it did into many hundreds of tons of metal weekly, throughout the war years.
The Delta Metal Company’s experience as originators of the extrusion process was always at the service of the Admiralty, the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft’ Production, particularly when in difficulty regarding the production of any particular alloy, and the desired .end was usually attained, and that with the minimum of delay. The metal which went into the ships, tanks, guns and aircraft and into the fabrication of parts for” Mulberry,” ” Pluto ” and” Fido ” is now going into the manufacture of articles for domestic uses-gas, water and electrical fittings, metal window parts, refrigerators, electric clocks, radios, motor car fittings shop fronts, balustrades and hand railing, just to mention a few of the thousand and one peace-time uses-which have been relegated to the background for so long, but which will benefit by the accumulated experience gained, and improvements made during the war years.

From a local authority brochure about local Greenwich firms during the Second World War.

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