Lancashire At War.co.uk
Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire
Dick, Kerr Ladies, English Electric, WW1 & WW2
The First World War munitions production at Dick, Kerr’s factory on Strand Road in Preston saw employment reach 8000, including over 2000 women.
Having previously made electrical components, when war came, it manufactured munitions shells. A total of 3,250,000 had been made by the time the war ended. The largest were for battleships and measured 63 inches long. The site also saw the construction of a hundred Felixstowe F3 flying boats. These very early aircraft that could carry four men at up to 70 miles an hour.
In 1918 the Dick, Kerr factories was amalgamated into the company English Electric. It was still commonly referred to as Dick, Kerr’s though by the local people.
Today, the name Dick Kerrs is synonymous with the women's football team - the most successful in the world. They were formed here and their players were munitions workes from this factory.
On Christmas Day 1917, a crowd of 10,000 at Deepdale watched Dick Kerr’s Ladies play against the munitions workers from the Coulthards factory. They went on to play in front of crowds the size of today's mens Premier League teams.
Rearmament and Second World War
The 1930s depression meant that one of the two works sites on Strand Road- the West Works, was closed. The firm continued to employ a thousand people at its East Works site, and it’s here that the Blackpool trams were made. At the end of the decade though rearmament started in anticipation of a coming war with Germany. The West Works buildings were reopened and the East Works was converted for war work. Employment soared to 13,000 throughout the war.
At the same time English Electric converted the aerodrome at Samlesbury to make war aircraft, including the Hampden and Halifax bombers. A site was also opened up at Warton. After the war, The West Works began to make trains. The East Works site, Samlesbury and Warton became the manufacturers of jet aircraft, including both the Vampire and the Canberra.
To view the impressive building and blue plaque at the Dick, Kerr’s / English Electric site park opposite in the Aldi retail car park.
The Wharncliffe Companion to Preston: An A to Z of Local History, David Hunt (2005), Wharncliffe Books
A History of Preston, David Hunt (2009), Carnegie Publishing Ltd
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