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Spotters' Logs and Fire Guard Accounts (Second World War)

Records compiled as part of fire-watching duties and protection of the Royal Mint Refinery premises during the Second World War.

Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) became involved in the affairs of the refinery from 1935 and during the war years, when he brought his scientific experience and contacts to the benefit of the refinery. The onset of war meant greater diversification for the refinery, although the bullion work continued, especially gold, where small bars were in demand for India. The rolling mills changed to brass strip for armaments, cupro-nickel for shell cases and such items as thin copper strip for aero-engine radiators, the latter in response to the realisation that the only source of supply was Birmingham, the target of the enemy raids. A new manager was appointed in 1938, Bill Williams, a chemist who had already been joined by another university-trained chemist, Peter Steel. As the war progressed, so the demand for new products grew and it largely fell to these two men to find ways of producing the answers. Early in the war it was found that wire-plated materials were at risk because the main supplier was the United States and a substitute source had to be found. The solution was the opening of a wire-plating department.

Being on the boundary between the City and the East End, with the docks to the south and railways to the north, meant that the refinery was in the heart of the bombing area of the Blitz. However, the refinery was fortunate in that it was not hit by bombs, unlike its neighbours on all sides including the Royal Mint. Incendiaries were a problem but apart from some scorch marks on the roof there was little to show. The Fire Watch Logbook, preserved in The Rothschild Archive records the raids, the damage to surrounding areas and other information culled from the newspapers.

Work was frequently interrupted by raids and the watchers had to take note of warnings from the local ARP officers and then decide on the level of action to take; whether or not to send everyone to the shelters to close down certain operations. When the flying bombs started there was an interesting entry in the log for 13th June 1944 where the observer had described a plane on fire which exploded on impact, not having had a chance to unload its bomb-load. This entry was annotated a few days later "perhaps the first sighting of a flying bomb". Later that summer it was noticed that the twin chimneys of Greenwich power station provided a very useful indication of which route the V1s were taking. Spencer Richards a long-stabndig emplyee of NMR recalled, "either side of the chimneys there was nothing to worry about, but if it flew between then take cover, quick!"

Royal Mint Refinery: Spotters’ Logs (Second World War), 1939-1942

000/413/1-2, 2 volumes, 1 folder

Royal Mint Refinery: Records compiled as part of fire-watching duties and protection of the Royal Mint Refinery premises during the Second World War. In 1939, the RMR premises at 19, Royal Mint Street, E.1. were designated as a 'Key Point' of national importance in time of War by the Ministry of Home Security. The RMR Spotter's Logs record a "day to day report of enemy aircraft activity, as seen from the roof of the RMR" and record the Spotter's Report, Press Report, and a note of the staff on duty.

  • RMR Spotter’s Log, Vol. 1, 1939-1942. Loose in the front of this volume is a copy of the Ministry of Home Security ARP Circular 290/39 and its later revision, applicable to the RMR premises,and a summary of the "Principal blitzes on London, 1940";
  • RMR Spotters’ Log, Vol II, 1942-1945; 
  • Folder conmtainign a small collection of contemporary newspaper cuttings of the London bombing, found within the item above.

Royal Mint Refinery: Fire Guard accounts (Second World War), 1942-1945

000/413/3, 1 volume

Royal Mint Refinery Fire Guard Accounts, 1942-1945. This volume records payments made to to fire-watchers and spotters for their duties.