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    People's War
    Vauxhall to the rescue!
    Winston Churchill inspects his tank
    Winston Churchill inspects his namesake

    In World War II, when the British Army were down to their last 100 tanks, it called on Vauxhall Motors in Luton to save the day. They ably rose to the challenge, even though it made the town a target for the Luftwaffe.

    SEE ALSO

    People's War

    View the air raid photo gallery

    View the Churchill Tank photo gallery

    View the Vauxhall factory photo gallery

    D-Day revisited

    "May the fathers long tell the children" - St John Fisher School project

    People's War and D-Day anniversary events

    People's War Roadshow in Bedford

    Tank power

    Memories of a war baby

    War child: giving something back

    Vauxhall to the rescue

    Living with the enemy

    The Glenn Miller mystery

    The secret war in Milton Keynes

    World War Two poetry

    How Bedfordshire fooled the Germans!

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    Vauxhall History

    The Churchill Tank

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    During the Second World War, Vauxhall Motors in Luton suspended car production and dedicated their production line to the Churchill Tank.

    Trucks
    The trucks line up in the streets of Luton after coming off the production line

    Development work started in July 1940 but after the retreat from Dunkirk, the British Army only had 100 tanks left, and Vauxhall was ordered to build them as quickly as possible.

    Churchill asked for the new tank to be ready for production the following March (1941) and 500 were ordered straight away.

    The first prototypes were completed by December and the first 14 production tanks delivered at the end of June. They might have missed the target date but this will still go down as a tremendous engineering effort.

    With just a year to develop and build the tank, the first ones were inevitably rather unreliable, so the Churchill was modified throughout the war, and various improvements were made to its cannons and armour. But despite this, British tanks were still always hopelessly outclassed by their German counterparts.

    Once assembled, the tanks were tested in the grounds of Luton Hoo stately home, and its namesake, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill even paid a visit to inspect them himself.

    Luton air raid
    The Luftwaffe targets the Vauxhall factory

    Over 5,000 Churchill tanks were built in total. They saw action in France, Italy, North Africa, and even in Russia with the Red Army.

    The factory in Luton also turned out a quarter of a million trucks during the course of the war, and led Britain's development of the jet engine. Fake inflatable vehicles were also made there, which were used to fool German pilots into wasting their ammunition.

    All this production for the war effort made Luton a target for the Germans. On 30 August 1940, at about 4.45 in the evening, the Luftwaffe carried out a daylight raid on the factory. Thirty people were killed, and 200 were injured.

    The raid caused considerable damage to the factory itself, and a number of fires were started in the surrounding area.

    You can find more stories like this and add your own on the People's War Website.

    your comments

    John Nice, High Wycombe Sunday, 27-Jun-2004 22:25:05 BST
    If you want to know about the work Vauxhall did during the Second World War (which includes 95% of the work on the first batch of jet aircraft engines), you MUST read W J Seymour's book 'An account of our stewardship'. I have a copy for loan.

    John Nice, High Wycombe Sunday, 27-Jun-2004 22:16:37 BST
    I was interested to see the pictures of Vauxhall's war work. My late father was a service engineer who spent the War visiting military bases, training service personnel on maintaining vehicles supplied by Vauxhall. It it worth remembering that Vauxhall Motors Ltd supplied one third of all the vehicles used in the Second World War by British forces. And the old Bedford van you refer to was in fact another brilliant Vauxhall success: the Bedford QL 4x4 lorry which saw service throughout the theatre. If you want to know about the work Vauxhall did during the Second World War (which includes 95% of the work on the first batch of jet aircraft engines), you MUST read W J Seymour's book 'An account of our stewardship'.


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