Dickinsons at War

More than 10,000 petrol tanks for aircrafts were supplied in various sizes.

DACHT : 62.12.16. More than 10,000 petrol tanks for aircrafts were supplied in various sizes.
Picture: Dacorum Heritage Trust

During the Second World War, the firm John Dickinson and Co. Ltd. converted their various mill sites into factories for manufacturing a whole variety of products for the war effort. Among the most ingenious items were petrol tanks for long-range fighters and bombers made of paper, which could be jettisoned after use. It enabled these aircrafts to travel much longer distances without the need to refuel.
A factory pass for Miss Culverhouse, dated 1943

DACHT : 1391.2. A factory pass for Miss Culverhouse, dated 1943.
Picture: Dacorum Heritage Trust


Dickinson’s made special strips of foil, which were dropped by aircrafts to confuse enemy radar. They also made fuel pumps for aircrafts, cardboard boxes for gas masks, blackout paper and a variety of munitions.

Many women were drafted into the factories to help make these vital products. In December 1941, national service was introduced for all unmarried women between the ages of 20 and 30. By mid 1943, 90% of single women and 80% of married women were employed in the armed forces or in industry.

Munitions Containers

DACHT : 271. These containers were made from paper and were designed to carry munitions.
Picture: Dacorum Heritage Trust

As the war progressed, the raw materials for paper-making became difficult to source due to rationing controls. Although paper demand dropped heavily, business was good. Around 80% of production was Government business for the Ministry of Defence.

As early as 1936, an Air Raid Precautions Committee had been formed and money allocated for the building of air raid shelters at many of the mills. The buildings at Apsley were camouflage painted and a fire watching rota was set up. The mill had it’s own Home Guard to operate anti aircraft guns. The Dickinson Guild of Sport based at Shendish Manor, became a home for bombed-out Dickinson employees.

The war memorial standing in the garden at Apsley commemorates Dickinson’s employees.

By the Dacorum Heritage Trust

The Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd.

The Museum Store, Clarence Road, Berkhamsted, Herts HP4 3YL

Telephone/Fax 01442 879525   Email info@dacorumheritage.org.uk

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