Chapter 4


Internment


When the war began in September 1939,although the company employed only a few workmen, some of these were called up for National Service in the armed forces. Therefore Dr. Simon and Mr. Forman now had to spend more time within the factory helping to manufacture the products which restricted raw materials would allow.

The company, however was now to suffer a major blow to its survival. On 26th June 1940, being regarded by the Government as an enemy alien, Dr. Simon was interned and the company was taken under the control of the Board of Trade. His internment was a result of the edict of Winston Churchill to “collar the lot”. Included in this sweeping statement were German and Austrian citizens of Jewish descent who had emigrated to England to escape the oppression which existed in their counties of birth, people from these countries and Italy who had been resident here for many years and those of other origins who were now regarded as enemies of the Realm.

In this action Churchill, who was now Prime Minister, felt that he was expressing the will of the people who, with Nazi Germany being very successful with the invasion of European countries would, eventually be poised for an invasion of England. Under the circumstances the above people would pose a threat. However, in doing so, people of value and integrity and those most trustworthy who had come to England to escape the regime, were temporarily sacrificed. It diminished the war effort by reducing the workforce and alienating many who were well-meaning friends of Britain. It must be stated that, despite the inconveniences which this action brought upon him and his family, Dr. Simon did not bear any malice towards the Government throughout the war. As the years progressed within these unfortunate times he played an ever increasing roll in supplying products which assisted the civilian and military authorities in prosecuting the war to its fullest extent. One of the managers appointed by the Board of Trade wrote to the Secretary of the company after the internment of Dr. Simon instructing her to cancel all existing arrangements regarding payments to him and to pay £5.00 per week to Mrs. Simon until further notice.

Prior to his internment Dr. Simon was vetted with other aliens and appeared before an investigating committee in Stafford. John Forman was invited by the Superintendent of Stafford Police to act as translator during the interview. He was able and prepared to vouch for Dr. Simon who, as a result, was graded as a Class “C” alien, which gave him the maximum possible freedom allocated to aliens at this time.

Nevertheless, “due to his hostile origins and associations”, he was interned under Defence Regulation 18B. This occurred because it was known that Evode was run by a foreigner and also the factory was very close to the electricity generation station, the gas works and a hospital. The fact that inflammable liquids were used in the preparation of the products in the factory caused concern for the authorities.

On 29th. July the situation was further confused by the internment of John Forman. This is problematic as, although he was born in Germany of an English father and a German mother, presumably he had a British passport. Therefore why was this action taken? Dr. Simon was initially interned at Huyton, near Liverpool and then transferred to Peel in the Isle of Man as was John Forman. During their incarceration the wives of both men applied and received permission to visit their husbands.

With the two principal people within the company taken into custody production ceased at Glover Street and the premises were taken over under the control of the Board of Trade. Three “managers” were appointed to control the company affairs and their first action was to have all inflammable solvents and certain chemicals removed from the factory. Production of polish and paints virtually stopped and, because there were no Ministry of Defence contracts in progress, the manufacture of Mellitol and Portite stopped as it was almost impossible to obtain cement to carry on making them. Every indication was given by the persons in charge that the business at the Glover Street factory was to be wound up since very little was being made. At this time all of the formulation books and notes of Dr. Simon were confiscated by the police. However, those of Mr. Forman and Mr. Lawton were not taken, allowing some products still to be manufactured when the appropriate raw materials could be obtained.

On 15th. August 1940 the predicament of the company and the need to obtain the release of Dr. Simon was brought to the attention of the Government. Lord Farrington raised the matter in the House of Lords. He did this because it was acknowledged that the national war effort must be supported in every possible way. Many of the products made by Dr. Simon at the Glover Street factory would meet this criteria.

This appeal appeared to have some effect because on 16th. August a very significant meeting took place at the Glover Street factory between the appointed Board of Trade managers and Mr. H.I. Clipstone, a director of Evode Chemical Products Ltd. together with Mr. H.J. Bostock, a director of Lotus Ltd. As an outcome of this meeting the Board of Trade would relinquish control of the company if the police approved of the proposals made by this meeting.

The Stafford Wartime Authorities were most concerned about the storage of chemicals in the factory which could constitute a grave risk in the event of an air raid. Public utilities were situated all around the site so the logical answer was to move the factory away from Glover Street. This was agreed if suitable premises could be found and which met the approval of the Board of Trade and the Police authority.

Urgent action was therefore taken to find other premises close to Stafford which, under the circumstances, was no easy task as a large number of other firms engaged in the production of products for the war effort had been attracted to the area. The final choice was an 80 year old, three story former shoe factory at 22, Stone Road, Stafford. The Board of Trade representatives approved the choice and the move to the selected premises took place on 8th. October 1940.

The factory at 22, Stone Road which still stands today was far from ideal for the purpose for which it was intended. Being situated adjacent to the main road, even in those wartime days, a considerable traffic problem was created when goods arrived or were despatched. Traffic could be found at a standstill while a London, Midland and Scottish Railway`s horse and wagon backed through the arched entrance of the building to load or unload goods. In later years this problem became much worse when contractors lorries would park in front of the factory awaiting their turn to drive in to collect the goods produced there.

The factory was a three story building consisting of a basement, which, before production could commence, had to have a concrete floor installed at a cost of £21.8.10. Then two 30 foot lengths of polish tables and electric vats for heating waxes were put in. As there was no heating in the building a coke fired boiled was installed together with radiators at a cost of £112.10.0.

The first floor was converted into offices and a large wooden bench was obtained with water and gas supply to house a few pieces of laboratory equipment which included a small electric stirrer, courtesy of the Lotus laboratory. A number of machines from Glover Street were installed on the second floor and at one end of the floor a wooden ramp was built on which stood four open topped 45 gallon drums, connected to the hot and cold water supply.

The third floor was used for storage of raw materials but solvents were excluded; these were kept in a newly erected petroleum store at the back of the factory. The only way to lift raw materials from the ground floor to the top floor was by a slow, laborious hand winch. Many were the near escapes from serious injury when raw materials broke away from the slings and fell through the open trap doors down to the entrance, two floors below.

Production re-commenced with the availability of some waxes and chemicals. Contact with Dr. Simon and Mr. Forman was maintained through correspondence and occasional visits which enabled the most urgent matters relating to running the company to receive attention. Some leaflets describing the company products managed to be prepared at the new premises.

A balance sheet for the year ending on 30th. September 1940 shows that the company more than doubled the profit made for the financial year. Considering the problems which the company faced during 1940 this was a remarkable achievement.