History and Heritage
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945
The world changed in 1939, with Britain declaring war on Germany in September 1939. Most car production in Great Britain stopped in its tracks, and very quickly the government was issuing out contracts for a huge variety of war-driven vehicles and materials.
Veiled in secrecy was the wartime exploits of Jensen Motors. Incredibly, this small vehicle manufacture was at the forefront of wartime production, producing bomb casings, tank parts, and even one off tank conversions. It was no wonder that this West Bromwich Company was to end up on the Luftwaffe’s ‘Hit List’.
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945 | Wartime Work
Jensen Motors was one of many small Midlands-based companies finding themselves with a range of military-related contracts. The Company already had a history of building a range of commercial vehicles, so some of the government contracts were for small military vehicles.
Jensen had also been building fire-engines and ambulances pre-war, and so manufacture of these continued. Both very much needed for times of war.
Specialised work came in which kept the trim shop busy, with contracts for the trimming of aircraft seats, and barrage balloon facings.
However, the Company also received large armaments contracts for the manufacture of bomb casings and bomb crates. Work that would undoubtedly come to the attention of German intelligence.
Other specialised work included the making of revolving gun turrets, and various conversion work to tanks. Later in the war, the Company was even asked to overcome problems in converting the Sherman Tank for amphibious, use leading up to preparations for the D-Day invasion.
With so many contracts coming in from the War Department, it would be necessary for Jensen Motors to constantly advertise for employees throughout the war years.
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945 | Bombing Raid
During a bombing raid by the Luftwaffe in November 1940, Jensen Motors Carter’s Green factory took a direct hit. Although much of the factory remained unscathed, there was some inevitable destruction.
The Luftwaffe’s November bombing raid unfortunately led to the loss of much of Jensen Motors’ pre-war files and records. However the raid did not hit the main factory buildings, and as such, wartime work continued unabated.
As with the Allied bombardment of Germany later in the war, Germany’s Luftwaffe were looking to destroy strategic sites, particularly factories manufacturing military hardware for the war effort.
It is very likely that German intelligence knew that Jensen Motors were manufacturing military hardware, including bomb casings, and that the Carter’s Green factory was a Luftwaffe target.
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945 | Wartime Employees
Throughout the war years, Jensen Motors were constantly advertising for employees. With much of the young fit male workforce away at war, women were signing up to work at Jensen Motors.
Employee lists from the time, gives us an insight to some of the jobs that female employees signed on for. As will be noted, the majority of those women joining Jensen Motors during World War II, left at the end of the war, or shortly afterwards.
This would be due to the shift back to the traditional manufacture of cars and commercial vehicles, and probably Jensen Motors needing different skill sets.
Joan Greensill – Welder of Bombs. Born 22nd September 1920. Joined Jensen Motors 15th October 1942. It isn’t known how long Greensill remained at Jensen.
Ruth Garrett – Welder of Bombs. Born 26th July 1915. Joined Jensen motors 17th September 1942. It isn’t known how long Garrett remained at Jensen.
Lucy Gibbons – Spraying & Dipping Bomb Crates. Born 27th October 1914. Joined Jensen Motors 28th December 1942. It isn’t known how long Gibbons remained at Jensen.
Ethel Hollyhead – Assembly Work For 500 Ib Bombs. Born 6th December 1906. Joined Jensen Motors 3rd February 1941. Left Jensen on 31st August 1945.
Margaret Hawthorne – Sewing Machinist. Born 2nd December 1925. Joined Jensen Motors 17th June 1941. Left 23rd June 1946.
Lily Lowe – Examiner of Bombs | Inspection Department. Born 1st September 1911. Joined Jensen Motors 21st July 1942. It isn’t known when she left.
Annie Pooles – Bomb Sprayer. Born 18th May 1915. Joined Jensen Motors 30th September 1943. Left 16th September 1945.
Edith Page – Bomb Crate Assembler. Born 5th May 1908. Joined Jensen Motors 13th October 1940. Left 1st October 1945.
Susan Perkins – Bomb Crate Sprayer. Born 31st October 1911. Joined Jensen Motors 13th May 1943. Date left Jensen not known.
Elizabeth Parker – Helping Bomb Crate Paint Sprayers. Born 25th November 1904. Joined Jensen Motors 6th March 1944. Left 30th September 1945.
Maud Green – Works Office Clerk. Born 25th May 1899. Joined Jensen Motors 25th October 1943. It isn’t known how long Green remained at Jensen.
Jean Frier – Administration Work Born 5th February 1928. Joined Jensen 5th October 1942. Left 1st March 1946.
As much as women played a vital role at wartime Jensen Motors, there was still many vacancies being taken up by their male counterparts. These would typically consist of men that were to old to be conscripted , or men that had a basic medical condition that made them void from conscription, and young boys that were not old enough to be conscripted.
Arnold Fieldhouse – Riveter’s Mate Born 6th February 1929. Joined Jensen 28th April 1943. Left 23rd may 1947.
Joseph Freeney – Spot Welder. Born 7th April 1904. Joined Jensen 27th January 1942. Left 4th August 1946.
William Fisher – Acetylene Cutter. Born 14th September 1909. Joined Jensen 8th August 1941. Left 4th August 1946.
David Fell – Works Messenger. Born 15th October 1929. Joined Jensen 6th January 1944. Left 27th September 1946.
George Freeth – Body Shop Boy. Born 7th December 1929. Joined Jensen 5th January 1944. Date left Company not known.
Edward Harris – Welder. Born 14th February 1926. Joined Jensen Motors 23rd March 1943. Left 15th April 1945.
Arthur Hodgetts – Acetylene Welder. Born 13th February 1927. Joined Jensen Motors 19th April 1941. Left 25th February 1945.
Harry Holden – Sheet Metal Worker. Born 8th October 1927. Joined Jensen Motors 22nd December 1941. Left 24th October 1945.
John Harris – Metal Grinding Operator. Born 13th April 1901. Joined Jensen Motors 28th December 1942. Left 31st August 1945.
Raymond Jones – Assembling Bombs. Born 21st January 1929. Joined Jensen Motors 28th April 1943. Left 2nd September 1945.
Samuel Lloyd – Sheet Metal Worker. Born 29th March 1901. Joined Jensen Motors January 1939. Left Jensen 27th May 1945.
Frank Lovett – Sheet Metal Worker. Born 27th October 1891. Joined Jensen Motors 26th October 1940. Left 14th July 1946.
Ernst Lewis – Bomb Crate Inspector. Born 3rd August 1891. Joined Jensen Motors on 15th September 1943. Date left not known.
Ronald Messer – Bomb Crate Assembler. Born 26th February 1926. Joined Jensen Motors April 1940. Left 31st August 1946.
Anthony Miller – Driver. Born 8th February 1892. Joined Jensen Motors 31st August 1942. Left 22nd April 1945.
Ronald Monk – Assembly Work. Born 26th December 1928. Joined Jensen Motors 28th December 1942. Left 10th June 1945.
Edward Moore – Machine Shaping Operator. Born 10th January 1926. Joined Jensen Motors 2nd April 1943. Left 13th January 1946.
Henry Norris – Filing Drop Bars. Born 9th May 1925. Joined Jensen Motors 17th May 1943. It isn’t known when Norris left.
Edward Newhall – Bomb Crate Riveter. Born 3rd June 1892. Joined Jensen Motors 1st January 1941. Left 31st August 1945.
Thomas Pinches – Tapping Bombs. Born 14th may 1899. Joined Jensen Motors 25th August 1943. Left 4th August 1946.
As with the female employees, most of the men that joined Jensen Motors between 1939 and 1945, left at war’s end, and shortly afterwards.
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945 | An End To War
Towards the closing stages of World War Two, Mercedes-Benz were secretly planning the resurrection of the Company in a defeated Germany.
Talk of Defeatism wasn’t tolerated in the Germany of 1944, and had such secret planning become publicly known, it would have led to the possible summary execution of those involved.
In Great Britain, it had looked as though the tide was turning by 1944. The Jensen brothers could look positively to the future within a victorious country. They, like Mercedes-Benz, were planning for a post-war era.
It was obvious to both Mercedes-Benz in Germany, and to Jensen Motors in Great Britain, that the first product that would be much needed in a post-war era, would be inexpensive lorries of all different types. Both Companies had lorry-based projects on the drawing board before the end of the war.
However, the Jensen brothers were also planning a new motor car, which could be presented to the public directly after the end of the war. This new car would be known as the PW saloon. The ‘PW’ designation simply meaning ‘Post-War’.
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945 | Post-War
With a plan in place, the Jensen brothers waited for the victorious outcome. They didn’t have to wait long, with the war coming to an end in May 1945.
Directly after the end of war, Jensen brought out their JNSN lorry. The Commercial Motor magazine from 9th November 1945, offered a three page feature about the new JNSN lorry. The feature was headed, ‘A New 30 m.p.h 6-Ton Oiler with Light-alloy Chassis-cum-body’.
Meanwhile work on an economic and versatile lorry, named the Jen-Tug, started, along with their new motor car, the PW Saloon. The first of the PW Saloons was made available to the public in summer of 1946, and production of the Jen-Tug was made ready by the end of 1946.
If you have enjoyed this feature about the wartime exploits of Jensen Motors, you may like to read this linked feature,
Jensen At War | Jensen Motors 1939-1945
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