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Researching life at the Humber factory during WW2

Recently, a local woman called Christine came into the History Centre to do some research on her mother’s time at the Humber factory during the Second World War. Her mother has often spoken of her time working for Humber with great fondness, and on her wall sits a Certificate of Thanks for her services to the company during the war. Christine described this certificate as beautifully made, with a border made up of products Humber produced at the time (munitions, engines etc.) and signed by Sir W.E. Rootes. From her mother’s stories, Christine knows that her mother was an office worker and was on a steady wage of £3.10 a week, which helped to supplement the family’s earnings. She worked 47 hours a week before and during the war, in addition to looking after the family home. Christine jokes that since her grandfather was a steel worker for Alvis, the laundry couldn’t have been an easy task.

From her mother’s nostalgic stories, Christine’s interests were piqued about what working for Humber during the war was like. She came to the History Centre to look through old pictures and copies of The Clarion, Humber’s newsletter, which began during the War to keep employees updated on the events going on in the factory. One picture in particular shows Humber after the Coventry Blitz (the picture is dated 15th November 1940). Christine brought a copy of this picture home to her mother, and she relayed the story that after the Blitz she and all the other Humber workers were called to the Factory by soldiers to begin clean up. The end goal was to get the factory up and running as soon as possible, and every worker who participated would get milk and other extra rations for their efforts. Therefore, she continued to ride her bike from Stoke every morning to do clean up work.

During the War, she and her friend met an American GI who often brought them tins of fruit and chocolate. Her friend later married the GI and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Christine’s family still keeps in touch with the family in America and it was only recently that the American GI, so thoughtful to Christine's mother during the war, passed away.

Christine is still looking through copies of The Clarion to learn more about what work and social life was like for her mother before, during and after the war. She has learned a great deal and is adamant that as the Second World War passes from living memory it is the next generation’s responsibility to keep the experiences alive to remind us of the sacrifices made by the War generation.

If you want to learn more about the stories told by your family, a visit to the Coventry History Centre is a fantastic place to begin.

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