Saturday, 24 September 2011

Your Country Needs You

These stunted iron stubs that are found on the tops of walls across the whole of Britain have long since become part of the country’s urban architecture, but the story behind these unobtrusive rusty remains actually tell a revealing truth about British wartime propaganda.

It is commonly known that these stubs are all that is left of thousands of tons of wrought-iron railing, which were hack-sawed down during the second world war as part of the drive to collect scrap metal for the country’s war effort.

But what is less well known is that the government at the time never actually used the majority of the scrap metal for it’s intended purpose, and that the whole exercise was implemented in an effort to make the people feel as if they were making a valued contribution to the war effort.

It was later claimed by dockworkers at Canning Town in London, that during the war they would tow large barges full of scrap metal and decorative iron work down into the Thames estuary and dump it. They claimed that at certain points in the estuary the shipping would need river pilots to guide their vessels, because the submerged scrap metal would have such an adverse effect on the ship's navigation systems.

1 comment:

babot said...

There may be some truth in this idea that some of the scrap was wasted but I have gone into this with iron founders and they believe that the story was born out of the fact that it was easy to cut down the ironwork but that shortages of fuel and capacity to convert them into munitions meant that often these heaps of iron were left for ages before they were removed, provoking stories of dumping. They also think that most of the iron would have been used though some would have been unsuitable. I have been unable to find anyone who has knowledge of these vast amounts of scrap being dumped at sea or whatever. But it would have taken a significant effort and lots of ships and people to do it.