Letter: War metals left on the scrapheap

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Sir: Betty Smith's letter (11 March) represents the generally held misconception that scrap metal in the Second World War all went to boost the arms industry. The fact is that wrought iron was and is unsuitable for reclamation. Cast iron scrap could be used as a limited percentage additive in iron furnaces, but even this did not contribute greatly to the sources needed for the production of high-grade ferrous products that were needed. Most scrap metals collected from 1940 onwards were stockpiled and eventually dumped in the sea.

Christopher Lush (letter, 8 March) is correct in thinking that the removal of iron railings was a form of vandalism, but it was prompted by the best of motives. The encouragement of the civilian population to give up metals was suggested by Lord Beaverbrook (in charge of aircraft production) to Winston Churchill and was intended to make the people think they were contributing to the defence of Britain following the debacle of Dunkirk. It may well have achieved this purpose at the time, but it certainly diminished this country's architectural heritage.

I well remember the heaps of scrap in towns and villages which included pathetic heaps of aluminium cooking utensils that had only a year or so previously been purchased at a sacrifice by working people earning less than pounds 3 a week.

Yours faithfully,

BRIAN JEWELL

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

11 March

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