Memories 1942 to 1945

This is the Lewes Road Office Staff Football Team in the 1940's Back Row (LtoR)--- ?- Harwood- Ginger? Centre Row (LtoR)---Stoner-Christmas-Divall-Russell Bottom Row (LtoR)---Claridge-Hammond-?-Wingham - Click on the image to open a larger version in a new window
From the private collection of Desmond Divall

75p for a week’s work

My first memories after leaving school are of starting work at Allen West, Lewes Road offices in 1942, where I began as office boy at a salary of 15 shillings & 2 pence (Today’s 75p), for a five and a half day working week. I worked in the Sales & Estimating office; my task was to sort various order documents of customer requirements passed to me from the salesmen. These were sorted into other departments and workshops, ready for distribution to Lewes Road, Coombe Road, or Moulsecoomb factory sites.

Office personnel

My immediate manager was Mr R. Pullen,who died a short after I began my job,and a Mr A. Anthony took over. The entire office was managed by Mr J. Hall and Director Mr P.C. Jones, in their own sub offices. A large area in the department contained the Order Filing Section, the domain of Miss Newry and her junior young lady filing clerks.

Wartime security measures

At this time, WWII security was vital and all employees were issued with identity passes which could be examined by gatekeepers and special policemen on entry to the various factory sites. Later the passes were replaced by identity lapel badges bearing the letters L, C, or M to mean the Lewes Rd., Coombe Rd. or Moulsecoomb factories.

A wartime fatality

I well remember a gatekeeper and policeman at the Dewe Road factory entrance being killed by the crash of an aircraft, following an air collision of friendly aircraft. Brighton and South Coast areas were raided several times by Nazi ‘Hit and Run’ aircraft which flew across the Channel from their bases in France. To warn of these attacks observers were based on tops of high buildings; they operated local sound ‘Pips’. One observer was based on the top of Coombe Road factory. All factories had their individual air raid shelters, and my particular one was situated in a Home Guard Blockhouse at the Lewes Road works.

Wartime products produced

Luckily the factories were not attacked, but I can remember seeing a deactivated bomb displayed in the palatial directors’ boardroom. Allen West produced many products used in wartime, both in WWI and WWII. In WWI there was the Mills Bomb Grenade and in WWII there was the naval ship deguassing gear to counteract the Nazi magnetic sea mines; control pillars for use with anti-aircraft predictors; submarine ventilation fan switchgear; seaport crane gear controllers; brake switchgear and numerous electric motor starters for wartime production factories.

Recruited to the RAF

At about 1943 I was promoted to Junior Salesman to Replace Mr B. Cole who was recruited to the RAF. So after training my replacement junior, I worked as salesman dealing with product repairs, reason gear and HT line gear until I too was recruited to the RAF in 1945; I returned to Allen West in 1948.

You can download a Word document which lists departments and their personnel below.


Comments about this page

  • An interesting page Dick. I recognised you in the middle row. I still see Jim Sharp and Arthur Elsey regularly, and I often run into Clive Robson in Sainsburys car park.

    By Ron James (11/05/2013)
  • Good to hear from you Ron James. Still a few of the old AW’s about, just a bit creaky now Anno Domini & all that. Quite a few names omitted from my memories page, and I cannot download the mentioned ‘List of Personnel at AW’. Please give my best regards to Jim, Arthur, and Clive when you see them.

    By Desmond (Dicky) Divall (19/05/2013)
  • Hello Dick. Good to hear from you after all this time. I don’t see too many of our old colleagues now although I regularly see David Greenfield for a few beers. He is still seeing Geoff Brooker, Jim Stenning & Doug Birch. I think they meet once a month. Some of the AW members meet once a month at the Swan, Falmer & I am intending to go there. I found your article very interesting and I am considering doing something similar. I have many lists of names including all of the draughtsmen!

    By Peter Guy (21/05/2013)
  • Hi! Peter, good to hear from you too. Please give my best to Dave, Geoff, Jim and Doug, too few of us left now eh? At Xmas I still send best wishes to John Lewis’s Family, Joyce, Mick, Sue and Richard, also to Dick Foord, and Ted Pond. Often wish I was nearer to Brighton to meet up with old colleagues to remember old times. Good job we’ve got the internet. I hope to add more memories soon of my time between my return to AW from the RAF and my retirement, must to get working on this soon. All the best! Dicky Divall.

    By Desmond (Dicky) Divall (22/05/2013)
  • Does anyone remember my dad Don Simons? He was a draughtsman and met my mum Barbara, who I believed worked in the typing office?

    By Lisa Lemcke (28/06/2013)
  • Hello Lisa. Yes, I remember Don very well. I started in the drawing office in 1961 and remember that he was there then. He smoked a lot and had the biggest ashtray in the office. It used to be full at the end of the day and he would empty it before going home. In the 1980s he was one of a group of six draughtsmen working on switchboard contracts. Others were Peter Carvell, Albert Rea, Denis Marston, Mick Emmett and Jim Stenning. Don left in about 1988 and I left in 1991.

    By Peter Guy (16/07/2013)
  • Thanks Peter, the only name I recognise is Jim Stenning. Unfortunately Dad passed away in 2005. Funny about the smoking, he gave up ‘cold turkey’ after needing surgery for an aneurysm. After that he enjoyed pretty good health. Did you know my mum?

    By Lisa Lemcke (14/08/2013)
  • Sad to report Jim Skinner, 2nd on right, front row passed away August 2002, my brother-in-law.

    By Frank Piner (15/08/2013)
  • I didn’t work at Allen West but sure I knew Dicky Divall. And Ted Pond – did you live next door to Mr Doubles the grocer in Hollingbury Road? I was known then as Alma Stevens and lived with Mrs Norman at No 5.

    By Mrs Stevie Hobbs (16/08/2013)
  • Anyone remember the horse-shoeing that was done in the Open Market, I believe in the Baker Street area? If anyone in Moulsecoomb remembers me (Sylvia Watts back then), I’d love to hear from any of my school pals:

    By Sylvia Stickel in Canada (18/08/2013)
  • I wondered whether anybody recalled Gerald Stanning, a WWI veteran and later Works Manager at Allen West & Company who was awarded the MBE in June 1943? (N.B. Not the same man as a Jim Stenning in the list of personnel). I’m currently researching his military service and later life so any information or a photo would be much appreciated.       

    By Steve (08/01/2014)
  • Message for Peter Guy. Hi Pete, Steve Fernell here. Long time no see. If you fancy getting together for a beer at any time let me know. Contact me on

    By Steve Fernell (16/04/2016)
  • My dad – Ron Marchant started work with Allen West at the age of fourteen (1938) and received eleven shillings a week for 48 hours work which included Saturday mornings. They had one week’s holiday a year plus bank holidays. His father also working there and it seems that thanks to his Uncle George, who was a Foreman in the business managed to get my Dad into the Tool room which he was pleased about as it seemed to have more prospects (a lot of his family seemed to work there at one time or another!  May have been named Marchant or Budd). He had a friend named Wilfred Steele who also worked in the factory. In about 1941 my Dad joined the local Home Guard company. He later went on to join the 10th Head-quarters Home Guard company in Queen’s Square Where he became a Platoon Sergeant.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

    Many thanks.

    By Becky Green (07/01/2018)
  • Frederick Pearson – trade unionist and Labour Club chair 

    I’m researching my family history for a proposed book, and would welcome any information you can provide about my late grandfather, Frederick Pearson (born May 1890), who was chair of the Brighton Labour Club during the War and an AEU union convenor at Allen West factory, Lewes Road, for many year before and after the War.  

    Frederick Pearson lived in Stanmer Park Rd and then Ditching Road just below St Matthias Church. He qualified as a draughtsman and got a job before the War at Allen West in Brighton. It used to be owned by a firm called Siemens, but at the time of the First World war its name was changed to English Electric. 

     He was a member of the Draughtsman’s’ Union, and was on its National Executive. The union amalgamated with the AEU, and he was on the executive of that union, too. My aunt/his daughter remembers him going to union conferences in Berne, and travelling all over the country on union business in the war. He was on the ‘exemptions’ committee in the Second World War, which decided whether young men should be excluded from National Service.

    She remembered him as an excellent speaker, and recalled an occasion when he addressed a union meeting at Allen West. The firm wanted the men to do some overtime for the war effort without due reward, but Grandad refused to allow it, and led the men through difficult negotiations. It was wrong in principle; the firm was going to make profits from the work. And during the War, my Grandad became chair of the Labour Club.

    So if you can help, please contact me at:



    By Philip Pearson (24/01/2018)
  • Having spent my apprenticeship in the AW factory, I moved into the drawing office on Freddie Pearson’s section in 1961.

    He was a hard taskmaster and I had previously been advised do a good job, work hard,don’t let him down and you will be OK. I soon found out that I was lucky to have joined some of the most experienced draughtsmen there and he had played a big part in that. In 1964 AW experienced the first ever redundancy and I remember him leaving at the age of 72. I have plenty of memories of those times.

    By Peter Guy (02/02/2018)
  • I started work as an office girl on Freddie Pearsons’ section in 1962. He was a lovely man, a bit like a Grandfather to me! I later joined the tracing section until we were all laid off in 1967 (?). I married Ron Beech and we are still together after over 50 years. Lots of names here that we both remember. How time flies!!

    By Maureen Beech (05/02/2018)
  • I don’t know much about the business except that my gran, Dorothy Jacquemai, worked there during the sixties.

    By Laurence Roy (05/02/2018)
  • Many thanks to both Maureen and Peter for your touching information about my grandad, Freddie Pearson, Allen West draughtsman. I am often back in Brighton seeing relatives, so I was wondering if we might meet up for a cup of tea sometime soon? I still have his drawing instruments, by the way. All the best, Philip Tel: 07500930148

    By Philip Pearson (08/02/2018)
  • Does anyone remember Ronald Price and my mum Jean Knigh, who both worked at Allen West and got married?

    By Steven Price (11/02/2018)
  • Hello Dick! Thank you for that great article about AW. I was Office Boy in the Sales Office in 1945 and remember all the people you mention including Ron Stott who took me fishing & sailing. I didn’t know you then, must have just missed you, but got to know you when I returned to Lewes Road in the drawing office after a spell in the RAF, 107 Assembly under Syd Elliott and Ted Packham in the Test Department. Worked as draughtsman for Bill Longley until joining PostOffice Telephones in the late sixties.

    By Reg Potter (09/03/2018)
  • This is a message for Peter Guy and Maureen Beech: thanks very much for your memories of my Grandad, Fred Pearson. I’d be very keen to meet up for a coffee to learn a little more, as I’m hoping to write a family biography. all the best


    By Philip Pearson (15/03/2018)
  • 6A long shot: I am interested in the control equipment AW produced for railways and particularly tramways (some produced with Crompton) for an article I am writing. Does anyone have any information on this please? Many thanks.

    By Martin Dibbs (17/03/2018)
  • Would anyone be interested in an old vintage ALLEN WEST & CO BRIGHTON Sign that is for sale? I live in Los Angeles and just saw it advertised over here. It looks to be about 2ft wide. All steel with the AW logo at the top. If anyone would like more info or a picture feel free to email me at baz @

    By Baz (30/08/2018)
  • Does anyone remember precision engernears James Albury Prowse and Vic Secton who worked on lathes on secret work at Alan West during the war years?

    By Mrs Faith Perry (17/05/2019)
  • I was born in Brighton in 1943 and lived there until we emigrated in 1958. The name Alan West was very familiar to me growing up as it was probably the largest enterprise in the town during those years. You may be interested to know that I served in the RAAF during the 60s as an airframe fitter, and subsequently worked as a sales engineer. I can remember several times when I have used a machine fitted with a DOL starter frm Alan West and Brighton, just like me.
    Just in passing, I notice the name Dival crops up a few times. The was a Mr Dival teaching at Balfour Road Primary School while I was there.
    It’s a small world indeed.

    By Peter Clark (23/06/2019)
  • Thank you for this account of Allen West & Co. I was just digging in our garden and found one of the security badges you mention, it has the letter “M”. On the back it has the number “5787”, I guess the numbers were assigned to individuals.

    By David (13/02/2020)
  • Hi All, really interesting reads. Just wondering if anyone knew my dad David Scroggins?

    By Lorna (18/11/2020)
  • I knew a Dave Scroggins. I think he worked in the 230 Flameproof section. He was also a Roman Catholic and attended St. Mary’s Church in Surrenden Road. Sadly, he died a few years ago.

    By Richard Szypulski (22/11/2020)
  • Any memories of my father Philip Harmer—tool maker ,shop steward, AEU. Lewes Road early WW2-later –moulescomb with friend Lenny Acton . Lived in Woodingdean -cycled to work then m/cycled.
    In 1943 tried to join RAF as flight\ engineer as bomber losses were heavy but refused as in a “reserved occupation “. He died in 2001 aged 93.

    By Martin Harmer (09/08/2021)
  • My brother served in WWII in the Royal Engineers, Bomb Disposal Unit. He was killed whilst clearing mines on Brighton beach in July 1944, east of a “flag pole and the fountain”. His body was blown to bits. A man wrote on, “Another time me and a couple of mates wandered down to the seafront. We were standing there watching a soldier in a tank clearing the beach of mines. He got out of the tank and was walking up the beach when there was a loud explosion. His body landed in the barbed wire in front of us – and his head in the Kings Road. An old man grabbed the three of us and sent us on our way. I had nightmares about that for weeks afterwards.” Could he have witnessed my brother’s demise? I would dearly appreciate any positive comments.

    By Brenda Jones (17/04/2022)

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