Womens' war work in Primrose Hill 1941-45
As I recall, and I was only four or five years old, the ladies of the neighbourhood began war work around 1941. There were a number of small local industries whose production was converted to aid the war effort. The first factory my mother worked in, together with Pam Lutgen’s mother Tiny, was Betula Ltd of Sharpleshall Mews. Here, they employed women to assemble ammunition boxes and dummy aircraft shells. They had another workshop based in St George’s Mews where these things were painted with something called “dope” paint – olive green. When my mother came home from work she smelled of it. There was no glass in their windows thanks to the 4.5 anti-aircraft gun on the top of the hill. At least they had plenty of ventilation. Betula previously made wooden tableware and turnery. These women were a feisty bunch – quite formidable. They earned on average £2 per week with 10/- (50p today but rather more valuable) for Saturday morning overtime. There was no National Health Serice or welfare state to fall back on, so overtime was important to them. Later my mother went to work in Ultra Radio of Erskine Road, where communications equipment was assembled for the military.
Ultra was founded in 1920 and manufactured high quality headphones. In 1923, the company moved to new premises at Harrow Road, London and in 1925 a new company Ultra Electric Ltd. was formed. Ultra introduced its first mains powered wireless set in 1931. After further expansion the company moved to larger premises at Erskine Road, NW3 in 1932. The company diversified into building tails and bomb doors for the Short Sterling aircraft in the Second World War.