Was recycled iron used in WW2 British fighter planes

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by usignuolo, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. usignuolo

    usignuolo New Member

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    I have recently got involved in an argument about the iron used to construct WW2 planes like Spitfires and Hurricanes in the UK. When Churchill became Prime Minister he installed press baron Lord Beaverbrook as the minister for aircraft production. It was Beaverbrook's responsibility to provide the desperately needed raw materials to help build the Spitfires and Hurricanes.

    One way used was to requisition the 19th century iron railings and gates surrounding many of the cemeteries, parks and squares in Britain's towns and cities. This was done in 1940 when many hundreds of tons of iron were removed by the authorities. The public were also asked to donate aluminium kitchen utensils - although in practice these were only owned by the better off. Beaverbrook himself issued a press appeal: "We will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes, Blenheims and Wellingtons".

    Since then the rumour has persisted that the iron collected was unsuitable for making planes and instead buried in quarries or dumped at sea, and that it was basically just a propaganda effort. The Public Records Office does not have any records of what happened to the iron collected, it seems the records disappeared or were shredded after the war. In 1978 a journalist claimed the London iron was loaded onto barges and dumped at sea in the Thames estuary.

    However there are a couple of people in my circle who insist that as we have no evidence to the contrary, the iron could well have been recycled to make planes in WW2. The iron must have come from somewhere and since iron was a key component in aircraft manufacture it could have been the recycled gates and railings. Is this true? And if so would recycled iron from Victorian gates and railings have been any use? Would the authorities have known this at the time if it was suitable?

    I thought one way to resolve this is to ask the people who know about these planes, ie this forum. Could the 19th century iron work collected during WW2 in the UK, mainly in the form of gates and railings, have been recycled to make WW2 planes?

    Or might it have been used instead for tanks which I believe were heavier. Anyone able to comment?


    Usignuolo

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  2. magnu

    magnu Member

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    I did hear on a documentary about heavy iron items being used instead of bombs due to the acute shortage of ordnance
    after the fall of France.
    During these desperate times it would not have made sense to collect these raw materials and not reuse them in some way however small
     
  3. magnu

    magnu Member

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    I did hear on a documentary about heavy iron items being used instead of bombs due to the acute shortage of ordnance
    after the fall of France.
    During these desperate times it would not have made sense to collect these raw materials and not reuse them in some way however small
     
  4. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    I have heard, though I can't remember where, that although the ripping out of decorative iron gates and the like all around London (and I assume other cities) started out as a legitimate war recycling program, it ended up being more public relations or a way to make the home front feel more involved in the war effort and came to naught. Slowly rusting in scrap heaps. Sad really... :(
     
  5. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    It's just scrap metal, most of it very basic iron. I'm not an engineer but I could see them using it for low grade operations. Somebody noted making bombs as a use and I could see that.

    But an airplane usually needs some pretty high quality stuff in it. Strong and fairly lite. Don't think Pig Iron would work on that.

    Doubt they dumped it though.
     
  6. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    #6 JoeB, Mar 2, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
    Scap iron is a usual ingedient in making new steel. Even in so called intergrated steel mills which process iron ore into steel, some of the raw material is also scrap iron (in electric furnace 'mini mills' the raw material is entirely scrap iron, but those sort of facilities were not common at that time). Just like the iron ore is chemcially transformed to pure iron with controlled amounts of carbon and alloying elements, so is the scrap. So, making airplane parts out of steel (whole ariplanes weren't made of steel of course) whose manufacture included some wrought iron or cast iron scrap is not 'making airplanes out of scrap' any more than it is making airplanes directly out of iron ore.

    If such scrap proved unusable, it was something about the nature or quantity of the scrap (perhaps more than could be used, afterall) wrt to the particular steel plants, not about the end use of the new steel. But usually, relatively big pieces of old iron or steel (of any quality) are the easiest to use in a steel mill and have the greatest value per unit weight among scrap. Shredded cars are a (or even *the*) major modern source of scrap iron, but has a more impurities to get rid of per unit weight (paint, oil, dirt, non metallic stuff that gets through the scrapping process, etc).

    In the US also in WWII the demand for more steel, which was one of the main bottlenecks in US war production, rather than labor or fuel or most other materials (except rubber, tin and some other stuff controlled by the Axis), resulted in 'scrap drives' where unfortunately a lot of military artifacts like historic cannon were sacrificed.

    Joe
     
  7. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    That doesn't sound altogether plausible
    quite aside from the hazard issue of securing it on the outward leg and then dropping it clean without snagging anything, it would be handing our raw materials to the enemy albeit in insignificant doses but I doubt Bomber Command would risk valuable aircrew just to go and drop somebody's school gates on a ball-bearing plant.

    Did you possibly mis-hear them saying that the heavy iron items were used in the manufacture of bomb casings (for example)?
     
  8. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    I thought he was talking about "heavy iron items were used in the manufacture of bomb casings". No?
     
  9. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    That's how I tried to read it
    maybe that's what he meant but didn't word it right
     
  10. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    I am not a wiz on metals but it sure seems to me that iron could be used in the making of steel and used in tanks, ships, guns, etc. I don't think dropping it would be an effective use of it.
     
  11. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Or machinery and tools if nothing else.
     
  12. Markus

    Markus Banned

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    Even it it was unsuitable for plane parts -which I consider very unlikely- they would used it for making something else.
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I think the copper collections and aluminium collected was more valuable, and more readily used than any of the iron alloys
     
  14. magnu

    magnu Member

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    No I did mean that they were dropped in their original state. IIRC the comment was from someone at the imperial war museum that the presenter was talking to. He mentioned things like muzzle loading cannon and sacks of scrap iron being dropped.
    Not absolutely sure which documentary it was but I think it may have been one on the BBC about the dam busters raid and reenacting it with a modern crew.
     
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