Today (8th May) marks the 75th Anniversary of VE Day; a momentous occasion and something Ibstock will be proudly recognising.
As we take stock of the current unprecedented times we find ourselves in, great comfort and inspiration can be taken from the grit and fortitude of the wartime generation – who overcame great uncertainty and loss to rebuild Britain in the months and years after May 1945.
Looking back through the Ibstock archives, I was fascinated to learn of our company’s role in the national war effort. To borrow a phrase much heard during today’s Coronavirus pandemic, the war years meant ‘business as usual’ for Ibstock, as those within the brick industry found themselves classified as a ‘reserved occupation’, meaning the work they carried out was classed as a crucial means of safeguarding Britain and its economy.
Indeed, one of Ibstock’s major customers at the time was the Ministry of Defence, with bricks, tiles and pipeware products from the company’s original North Works being used in vital wartime structures. This fostered a close association between the government and Ibstock, which continues to this day.
The arrival of VE Day – and thus the end of the war in Europe – was a time of celebration and reflection for Ibstock, but also a time to look to the future. Six years of conflict had taken a heavy toll on Britain’s towns and cities, and the government was keen to rebuild the country as quickly as possible. In the face of a skyrocketing demand for brick, many of Ibstock’s old workforce – including those who’d left to go to war – returned to help the company keep up.
In the space of a year, a brand new 30-chamber kiln was built at Ibstock’s South Works, increasing our brick production capacity from 10 million a year to 18 million, a huge increase for our capacity at the time. Examples of these bricks can be still be found today, primarily across the South East of England; a fantastic living tribute to the hard work of the construction industry in the days after VE Day.
As we prepare to mark today’s 75th anniversary, I’m proud to now lead the company once that played an important role in rebuilding Britain when it needed to the most. And, as we consider the challenging circumstances of our own today, we will draw hope and inspiration from our experiences of that time, helping us to bring people together and get Britain building once again.
Ibstock has a long history of brick making and industrial activity, dating back 200 years to the early 1800s. Learn more about Ibstock’s history and navigate through key events on our History page.
CEO, Ibstock plc