No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel

No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel

The site of No.1 Static Machine Bakery, RASC, was situated in a small field East of the A22, on the Northern side, and adjacent to, Wire Mill Lane, almost opposite the old entrance into Hobbs Barracks, now Hobbs Industrial Estate. There is very little information available about the bakery from Ministry of Defence sources, so one has to turn to snippets of information and the memories of people who once worked there to piece together the history of the bakery.

After England declared war on Germany in September 1939, the problem of feeding large numbers of troops in the British Expeditionary Force in France had to be addressed. Previously, during times of conflict, the Forces had relied on Field Bakeries using ovens known as ‘Polly’ Perkins to supply the large quantities of bread required. These ovens were made by the company Werner, Pfleiderer and Perkins Ltd, at their Westwood Works in Peterborough. WPP Ltd. was established in 1893, but due to the unpopularity of German names during World War I, it changed its name in 1915, and became Perkins Engineers Ltd. The ‘Polly’ Perkins field ovens resembled large metal tanks, with a flue, mounted on a wooden wagon-type base with wooden wheels. They were two deck ovens that baked about two dozen loaves of bread at a time, with a dozen loaves each being placed on two long trays that were loaded at one end of the oven to bake. Originally these field ovens were fired by wood, later to be replaced by oil, and could be drawn by horses to their required location. They were so successful that they were still in use 1950’s by the British Army. However, in 1915, the newly re-named Perkins Engineers Ltd, began working, in collaboration with Joseph Baker & Sons Ltd of Willesdon, on the design and manufacture of the Baker Perkins Standard Army Bread Plant, which was capable of producing over 100,000 rations of bread per day. It was due to this wartime collaboration that ultimately led to the formation of Baker Perkins Ltd., one of the leading manufacturers of bakery equipment.

A large Standard Army Bread Plant had been established at Aldershot, Hampshire, for some time before the out break of World War II, run by Sidney Bamford during the War, who after leaving the Forces went on to become Head Bread lecturer and then Head of the Department at the National Bakery School at Borough Polytechnic, London. It was due to the success of the Standard Army Bakery Plant, that it was decided, at the beginning of World War II, to establish three large Static Machine Bakeries in France, to be used in conjunction with the well-known Field Bakeries. However, due to the rapid fall of France in 1940, they were never built and it was not until 1943, that they were commissioned in England. The machinery was supplied by Baker Perkins Ltd. of Peterborough, later absorbed by APV Baker, and had been allowed to rust at Sir Moore’s Barracks, Shorncliffe, near Folkestone, Kent, in the three and a half years, between 1939 and 1943, before being installed and brought into use at three sites. One of these bakeries was at Leaton, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, (No.3), another at Danesbury Park, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, (No.2), and one at Newchapel, Surrey, (No.1). Baker Perkins Ltd., due to their World War II involvement in the production of field, costal defence and anti-aircraft artillery, had little opportunity or time to develop their bakery machinery, so that equipment shown in catalogues produced between the wars was similar, if not identical, to that sold to the RASC (Royal Army Service Corps) for the establishment of the Static Machine Bakeries.

A list of equipment supplied to the No.2 Static Machine Bakery, located at Danesbury, Welwyn, which was designed to supply bread to Command Supply Depots and American Depots in and around the East Central District of Eastern Command, has been located in the archive of The Royal Logistics Corps Museum, Deepcut, Camberley, Surrey. As it is likely that the RASC bought three identical Bakery plants, and given that the No.1 Static Machine Bakery located in Newchapel supplied the Command Supply Depot at Hobb’s Barracks, Newchapel, for the Southern District, it is probable that the equipment listed for No.2 also applied to No.1. The equipment comprised of, one flour plant, two 2 sack-sized ‘Viennara’ dough kneading machines, one sack cleaner, two reciprocating head single pocket dividers and conical hand-ups, one four piece pocket prover, one ‘Z’ Type conical moulder and five double-decker, oil-fired, drawplate ovens. The No.2 Static Bakery at Welwyn, was opened on 14th April 1943, being housed in a series of Rumney corrugated iron huts, and No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, was opened a day later on 15th April 1943, under OC (Officer Commanding) Capt. HC Thomas. From photographs of the No.1 Static Bakery at Newchapel, it is clear that it, like the No.2, was also housed in a series of corrugated iron huts, three short huts on the South side with two very long huts extending North. It is therefore likely that operating practises and production were similar or the same.

The Bakery operations started with the receipt of the basic raw materials. At the No.1 Static Bakery at Newchapel, flour was received from millers at St Neots, Cambridgeshire, the Croydon area and local flourmills, together with emulsifier or crumb softener and GMS (Glycerol Monostearate), that helped to preserve the bread by absorbing moisture. During the war, these deliveries were made under the cover of darkness, with the Bakery buildings being large enough to accept the delivery lorries being reversed into the building to be off-loaded out of sight. The flour was then loaded into the flour handling plant, which was a self-contained flour elevator and sifter, driven by a small motor, which discharged the sifted and aerated flour directly into the ‘Viennara’ kneading pans. The ‘Viennara’ kneaders used at No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, were of the 2 sack-size, with removal pans, whereby two sacks of 280 lb (126kg) of flour, making (560lbs/ 252kg), could be kneaded and fermented at a time. The advantage of the removable pans was that the pan served a dual purpose. The pan, mounted on wheels fitted with ball bearings, first received the flour and was then run on to the revolving platform that formed the base of the machine. Once in the kneading machine, salt was added to the flour then mixed with liquid, usually water, and then the raising agent, granular yeast, (a smooth paste created by removing most of the water content of fresh yeast, but not quite all, being quicker to re-hydrate than dried yeast), and the machine began the continuous stretching and folding motion required for kneading. It is this kneading process that gives the bread its texture. After the operation was complete, the pan then served as a dough truck and could be removed to the dough-room for the period required for proving, anything between two and four hours. Following this it could be transported back to the machine for the process of ‘cutting or knocking back’, the process whereby the risen dough is pummelled to release the CO2 (Carbon dioxide) that it has acquired during fermentation. The pan of dough was then left to stand before the weighing-off process began on the reciprocating head double pocket divider.

The flour sacks, in the mean time, were cleaned in the sack cleaner that had two double beaters, revolving at high speed. These beaters separated the flour from the sack, with the fine particles being drawn away by a suction fan to the dust collector, allowing the residue of flour to settle in receiving drawers fixed to the bottom of the machine, eliminating excess flour particles filling the air and building up an explosive mixture.

Once the dough reached the divider it was divided into loaf-size pieces, bearing in mind that for a 2 lb (900g) loaf the dough had to be scaled up to 2 lb 4oz (1kg). Later, to save on flour, civil bakeries used 2 lbs (900g) of dough to make 1 lb 12oz (800g) loaf, but in 1943, the military went one stage further, making what was known as the ‘Quartern’ loaf, scaled to 4 lbs (1.8kg) to make a 3 lb 8oz (1.6kg) loaf, measuring 18ins (15.5cms) by 4ins (10cms) by 4ins (10cms). The divided dough then passed to the conical hand-up machines, where the loaf-size pieces of dough were shaped into a neat ball-shape that was dropped into pockets on a four-pocket prover. The pockets were made of linen and travelled along a conveyor through a low heated oven for the intermediate prove. The fabric allows the moisture to pass through whilst the dough is proving. After proving for about twenty minutes, the loaf-sized pieces of dough moved on to the conical moulder. This looked very similar to the conical hand-up machine, with the difference being that it consisted of a revolving cone table of a larger diameter, to give the requisite amount of ‘working’ of the dough for the final moulding ‘Z’ blade. The trough on the conical moulder, which was of a spiral formation, gradually ascended the cone table causing the dough to be forced against it. The result was that the dough pieces were subjected to an action that had the effect of developing an even texture throughout the mass, whilst continuously stretching the skin from top to bottom. These pieces of dough were then pushed into tins and left for final proving before being baked. The No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, was fitted with five ‘Tudeccocarbean’ two-deck, drawplate, steam pipe, ovens. The ovens had separate furnaces, fuelled by oil, which heated water, the steam being conveyed along sealed pipes to provide the heat. Having separate furnaces enabled each baking chamber to bake at different temperatures, if required. The loaf tins were placed on large metal racks that were fitted with wheels that ran along a track into the ovens. These racks held ninety-six Quartern loaves per deck, eight loaves wide and twelve deep, therefore No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, had the capacity of baking up to 960 loaves at one time. The loaves would take about forty-five minutes to bake.

The No.2 Static Bakery, Welwyn, was designed to produce 50,000 lbs (22,500 kg) of bread a day, working in two shifts. It was the first bakery to employ ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) female bakers, later to be superseded by WRAC (Women’s Royal Army Corps), RASC personnel being used only to administer the unit and to do the heavy work, like carrying the flour and firing the ovens. The policy of introducing female labour into the Forces Bakery trade was taken under pressure, with a great deal of apprehension and as a result of a National emergency, but over the years even the military had to agree that it was the correct decision. The policy of using female bakers also applied to the Static Bakery at Newchapel as by October 1944, Capt. HC Thomas is listed in command of fifteen men of the RASC and eighty-nine women of the ATS.

By 25th September 1945, Capt. H W Browne had succeeded Capt. HC Thomas, and is recorded as the OC at No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, commanding forty-one men of the RASC and seventy-two women of the ATS. The average bread production per month at this date was 1,100,000 lbs, (500,000Kg) [36,500 lbs or about 9,600 Quartern loaves per day], with the total production, up until September 1945, given as 17,750,000 lbs (8,000,000Kg), serving up to six Command Supply Depots. In April 1949, WO II (Warrant Officer II) Thomas Jenkinson, succeeded S/Sgt. (Staff Sergeant) Cooper who had been in charge of the bakery since 1946. WO II Jenkinson had enlisted with the RASC on 15th January 1937, and after two years training, joined the British Expeditionary Force in France at the beginning of the war. With the fall of France he returned to Britain before being posted to North Africa between 1943 and 1945. He then spent a year in North West Europe and three years in the Middle East before being posted to the No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, where he remained until March 1951, transferring to the Static Bakery at Aldershot. He then served in Korea for a year followed by Farelf and then Egypt. WO II Jenkinson, master baker, returned to Britain in 1955, and took up the post of Acting WO I at the Static Bakery, Aldershot. Here he was in charge of fifty men, and was discharged, after twenty-three years service, in January 1960. CQMS (Company Quarter Master Sergeant) Paxton, took over the Static No.1 Bakery, Newchapel, assisted by Corporal ‘Curly’ Watts, in November 1952, with the whole of the Command Supply Depot at Hobbs Barracks under the command of Capt. Edmond ‘Spike’ Hughes, at that time.

Bread rations from the No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, were distributed to individual Military Units from the Command Supply Depot that was situated within Hobbs Barracks. These rations, which also included provisions in the form of green groceries and meat, were distributed to the Army, Navy and Air Force in the Southern region. To prevent detection by enemy aircraft during the war, the Unit lorries collecting their supplies were loaded in Heather Way, East of the A22 at the foot of Woodcock Hill. Here the lorries could be hidden under the tree canopy of the area, the idea being that the stream of lorries arriving to collect provisions could attract more attention and were more likely to be noticed than the two large lorries that ferried the provisions from the Supply Depot to their hiding place.

Interestingly, bread was not rationed during the war, although in 1943, National Bread replaced white bread as an attempt to make flour go further. The introduction of National Bread, which was greyish in colour compared to white bread, allowed the flour to go further by not extracting so much of the grain, i.e. Wholemeal uses 100% of the grain, Wheat meal, 85%, National, 78% and White, 72%. However, between 1947 and 1948 bread rationing had to be introduced, as Britain could not afford, either in financial terms or space, to ship in the wheat from North America, in its struggle to get the country back on its feet. By 1953, Pearly White bread, as it was known, was reintroduced and the production of National bread ceased. Shortly after the war, civilian bakers were employed to work at the No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, along side the army bakers. Alf Sinden, who had run the bakery at North End, Felbridge, worked there at that time.

Gradually, with the expansion of large commercial bakers like, Sunblest, Broomfields, Allens, Lyons, Frenches and Wonderloaf, large scale bread production exploded, which inevitably led to price reductions and the Army was either not prepared to, or able to, compete. Gradually many of the Static Bakeries, including No.1 at Newchapel, were phased out. It has not been possible to determine exactly when the No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, finally ceased production, although it was probably in the late 1950’s, after being under-used for a long time. RASC Driver, Michael Parkin, now of Imberhorne Lane, East Grinstead, was stationed at Hobbs Barracks during the mid 1950’s, and remembers that one of his duties included guarding the entrance to the site of the bakery, when not in use, during the first half of 1956. One of the Army Bakers, Don Hares, now of Towcester, Northamptonshire, worked there at this time and remembers that demand had fallen to such an extent that only three shifts were being worked per week, starting on a Sunday night. An insight into how the No.1 Static Bakery operated in 1956 has been supplied by Don Hares, he recants:

The Bakery consisted of corrugated iron Nissan buildings; the three short ones on the Wire Mill Lane end were originally used for storing flour during the war, but by 1956 the one nearest the A22 was the only one used for storing flour, the other two were used for general army storage. The flour stores held 200 tons (181,400Kg) each. Between these three buildings and Wire Mill Lane there was a concrete area for the flour lorries to turn round, occasionally we would parade there. Each building was big enough to get six of the large flour lorries inside, as when I was there they would back right inside to unload, possibly 20 tons (18,140Kg) per lorry.

West of these short buildings was a pre-cast concrete building that originally housed the office and toilets. Behind this was a big water storage tank, both were demolished shortly after my arrival.

The long building was for housing two mixing machines, divider and prover, and the ten ovens, the rest of the space being used for bread storage. The entrance from the A22, half way along the long building, was for the lorries to deliver oil for firing the ovens and coke for the central heating and hot water. A third entrance at the North end was where the lorries came to load up the bread. This concrete area was comparatively small, and may have been the reason why, during the war, queuing lorries were loaded in the lay-by towards Felbridge under the trees.

During my time there, February 1955 to November 1956, we only baked three days a week. Monday started at 4 a.m. and the bread was distributed on the Monday. Tuesday started at 8 a.m. and the bread was distributed on Wednesday. The final bake being on Thursday, starting at 8 a.m. with the bread being distributed on Friday. I do not know about the war, but with the run up to D-Day they possibly baked continuously. Working a twenty-four hour day, the bakery would have used 48 tons (43,500Kg) of flour and produced 8,600 2lb (0.9Kg) loaves or rather 4,300 Quartern loaves. The baking procedure was that the flour, salt, water and yeast was mixed in the large bowls of the mixers and left to bulk ferment, each bowl held about 560lbs (250Kg) of flour. The bowls of fermented mixture were then moved back for ‘knock-back’ and were then wheeled to the dividers. Each divider needed four bowls per hour. We hand moulded on the table, but I would have expected a moulding machine to be used during the war. We filled the setters (many of them), with Quartern tins and the dough had its final proof. Then onto the oven where the tins were turned upside down to make sandwich loaves. After baking the loaves were de-tinned, the tins going into an empty setter and the bread onto trolleys. Civilian workers, who were also employed in the Barracks, fired the ovens.

In 1956, there was one Staff Sergeant, three NCO’s (Non Commissioned Officers) and about twelve Privates. As production was small we would work on a table, as photographed by the East Grinstead Courier {see cover picture}, and then as the bread came out of the ovens go on to packing. Continuous running would have needed at least eight more men, making the total of Privates, twenty. On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Units, including The Guards from Caterham, Surrey (our biggest customer), sent a lorry to Hobbs Barracks where they would load grocery from the CSD (Command Supply Depot), which was the big building you could see from the A22, meat from the butchery and green grocery from the NAAFI Store. They would then go over to the Bakery for the bread ration. The loaves they collected were Quartern sandwich loaves, the only type of bread we made. A ‘Milk Run’ also operated from the CSD, where we hired a lorry, loaded it with grocery and sent it to small Units around South London. Bread was not sent on the ‘Milk Run’ as we were told it was cheaper to buy their bread from civilian bakeries.

Located behind the CSD building at Hobbs Barracks was the CSD office, occupied by our Captain, and other staff, including civilians. Behind this building was the chapel, (Roman Catholic, I think), and behind that was our billet. We had to use the camp cookhouse and also the medical centre and dentists, otherwise we were an independent unit.

On the basis that bread production had fallen to only three shifts a week it would seem likely that the bakery ceased production shortly after this date, although an article about the bakery did appear in the East Grinstead Courier in 1956, along with a collection of photographs, one being that of Don Hares and his fellow bakers moulding bread dough on the table. Some time after 1960, the Bakery buildings were dismantled and the concrete standings broken up, leaving no visible sign of their existence in the field.

The Modern Manna, by G Ort
No.1 Static Bakery RASC, Lingfield, Royal Logistics Corps Museum, FHA
No.2 Static Machine Bakery, Royal Logistics Corps Museum, FHA
Bread & Flour Confectionery Machinery, by Baker Perkins, FHA
Modern Bakery Equipment, Section 3, Loaf Making, by Baker Perkins, FHA
Modern Bakery Equipment by Baker Perkins, FHA
Catering – Baker,

Thanks go to Don Hares, (former Regional President of the Eastern Region of National Association of Master Bakers) and Albert Merriman for their memories of working at No.1 Static Bakery, Newchapel, Bernard Lewis, OC No.2 Static Bakery, Welwyn, A G Cavan for general information on the Static Bakeries, Jim Yates of APV Bakers for supplying information on and photographs of the equipment used at the Static Bakeries, Sally Jenkinson for information on WO II Thomas Jenkinson, and RASC Driver Michael Parkin, for his memories of Hobbs Barracks in the 1950’s.

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