6 June is the 70th anniversary of the World War II Normandy landings, known as D-Day.
Despite being far from the action Wakefield played a crucial role in the success of the operation. Some of the landing craft used were built in Wakefield. The Landing Craft Assaults were made at Joinery & Shop fitters company Drake & Warters Ltd in 1943.
The first LCA to be made at the factory was the 1144. This is an image of it being launched:
For more information about the Drake & Warters involvement in the production of the LACs see: Drake & Warter's article
The company employed 800 girls to enable them to meet the order. A British Pathe newsreel survives that shows the factory and introduces some of the workers Landing Craft Assault film
One of the girls working at the factory and who features in the newsreel was Peggy Taylor, a former cinema usherette. Wakefield Museums would love to know if Peggy Taylor or her family are still living in Wakefield. If you think you know Peggy then please contact the Museums at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Another of the company’s employees was George Kellett. Throughout 2014 Wakefield Museum has been tweeting entries from George Kellett’s World War 1 1918 diary @WW1_Diary. At the time the landing craft were being produced George worked at Drake and Warters, he would have been around 50.
George Kellett was a trusted and longstanding employee and is mentioned in a Wakefield Express newspaper article dating from April 1950, celebrating the firms Silver Jubilee:
Most of the people working there are local and many have been there since its formation. “They are the people that made the business” says Mr Drake. Six of them, Fred Mundy, George Kellett, Joseph Trantor, Ernest Blakey, John Beck and Edwin Thresh were presented with silver tankards…The firm’s employees are proud of their efforts in the Second World War… These included the building of 72 invasion craft in as many weeks
This is an image of Drake & Warters staff from around 1930 - we believe that George Kellett is on the middle row, eighth in from the left.