MEMORIES AND INFORMATION - WARWICKSHIRE, CASTLE BROMWICH
  THE SPITFIRE FACTORY
and
Cpl. GEORGE RONALD BARTON

This is a page within the STAFFORDSHIRE HOME GUARD website. To see full contents, go to SITE MAP.


The "Nuffield Spitfire Factory" was
built shortly before the outbreak of war on land adjacent to Castle Bromwich airfield. There is information about it and its products on
another page of this website; and on a member of its Home Guard unit, Edward Johnson.

George Ronald Barton (1915-1985) was another employee. He worked there throughout the war and also became a member of factory HG unit. He joined early when the main weapon of defence was a broom handle; and he subsequently rose to the rank of Corporal. Ron was a small man in stature but possessed the loudest of voices, sufficient to outshout the Sergeant-Major who had been sent to put some military backbone into this assortment of sloppy - and sometimes stroppy - would-be warriors. He was also man of considerable physical strength: somehow he contrived accidentally to bend the barrel of his rifle, much to his sergeant's ire.

Ron Barton had been a tool designer at the Austin Motor Company at Longbridge. He worked at Castle Bromwich throughout the war and lived in the neighbouring village with his wife and child. His duties involved inspection and rectification and he would work 9 days on, sleeping at the factory, and 1 day off at particular times. Another duty which he performed was to attempt to teach the theory of flight to Air Cadets. The shortness of his fuse and his inabilty to comprehend how others could be so slow to grasp whatever was so obvious to himself meant that he would not be quickly forgotten by his pupils in the ensuing years!

Cpl. Barton recounted tales of his time at Castle Bromwich to his family, especially concerning the best known and perhaps most colourful employee who served within (and above) that vast complex, the Chief Test Pilot, Alex Henshaw. These memories have been recorded by George's son.

The Chief Test Pilot for the Spitfires was Alex Henshaw, a very brave man who became even more renowned after the war. He would take the freshly built aircraft up and attempt to pull the wings off. Often nuts and bolts or indeed tools would have been left inside during assembly and would sometimes hit Henshaw on the head or legs as he threw the aircraft around. This somewhat annoyed him, so he would climb to a good height and throw the objects out aiming at the factory roofs. By the time they landed they were doing a fair speed and would punch through the roof. Fortunately they usually could be heard coming. He did a fair amount of damage despite being ordered to desist. He was not a man to be told what to do and the Company's difficulty in getting volunteers to test newly built aircraft which he was brave enough to do enabled him to get away with a lot.

He also had a habit of flying over sun bathing workers on the airfield at nought feet, leering out of the cockpit whilst they tried to dig a hole.
He, however went too far one day when the exiled King of Norway came on a official visit to the factory and Henshaw was to give a flying display. At nought feet he flew between two rows of buildings with scant clearance on either side and just cleared the raised dais on which was the King's party. The King passed out and even Henshaw was in trouble. The assembled workforce hadn't laughed so much in years

The attacks on the factory roofs were not of course confined to the efforts of Alex Henshaw. The Luftwaffe made several attemps to wreck the factory and damage, loss of life and injury ensued. Ron Barton was caught up in at least one of these raids and he bore the scar on his face for the remainder of his life.

Ron Barton's family and the staffshomeguard website would welcome any recollections of this memorable man from anyone who knew him at the time. Please use Feedback.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
We are much indebted to Mr. Jon Barton of West Yorkshire for all the above information about his father and for his generous permission for its publication within this website.