Leader in machined plastics and resin bonded fabrics Engineering plastics and composites

Tufnol - Exhibition of wartime equipment 1944

Several years ago, in the archives at Tufnol, an old photo album was found. Embossed on the front in gold are the words "The Ellison Exhibition 1944".
The album contains 32 black and white photographs of an extraordinary event which had been held in 1944. It took place inside one of the Ellison factories at Perry Barr in Birmingham, to show to the Tufnol and Ellison workers and their families what an important contribution they had made to the war effort. A wide range of wartime equipment was put on display demonstrating the many uses of Tufnol parts and Ellison switchgear. The exhibition included field guns, armoured vehicles, a parachutists folding motorcycle, the front end of a Lancaster bomber and even a real Spitfire.
The album contained no text other than what is shown in the photographs and, to date, no other record of this exhibition has been found.
The photographs are all here. They show a fascinating insight into the spirit of the time.

Please click on the thumbnail to view full size image. You will also find the full image descriptions below the gallery.

Exhibition Photo No 1- 1 -
Exhibition Photo No 2- 2 -
Exhibition Photo No 3- 3 -
Exhibition Photo No 4- 4 -
Exhibition Photo No 5- 5 -
Exhibition Photo No 6- 6 -
Exhibition Photo No 7- 7 -
Exhibition Photo No 8- 8 -
Exhibition Photo No 9- 9 -
Exhibition Photo No 10- 10 -
Exhibition Photo No 11- 11 -
Exhibition Photo No 12- 12 -
Exhibition Photo No 13- 13 -
Exhibition Photo No 14- 14 -
Exhibition Photo No 15- 15 -
Exhibition Photo No 16- 16 -
Exhibition Photo No 17- 17 -
Exhibition Photo No 18- 18 -
Exhibition Photo No 19- 19 -
Exhibition Photo No 20- 20 -
Exhibition Photo No 21- 21 -
Exhibition Photo No 22- 22 -
Exhibition Photo No 23- 23 -
Exhibition Photo No 24- 24 -
Exhibition Photo No 25- 25 -
Exhibition Photo No 26- 26 -
Exhibition Photo No 27- 27 -
Exhibition Photo No 28- 28 -
Exhibition Photo No 29- 29 -
Exhibition Photo No 30- 30 -
Exhibition Photo No 31- 31 -
Exhibition Photo No 32- 32 -

Image 1:

Display boards – Factories & Workforce

"Ours was a factory happy to make the products needed by a world at peace. we worked hard. we made well. ours was a name respected in industry."

Image 2:

Display boards

‘One man, a madman changed all that, lighting a spark that would set the world ablaze’

1939 – Munitions had to be made. ON SEPTEMBER 3rd 1939, we in the Ellison factories took off our coats and set to work to do our bit for freedom.

More Electric Power Was Needed Factories changed over to war production.

Tufnol workers made:

Gear wheels for coal mines and cement works.
Heavy bearings for steel works.
Electrical insulators for steel ovens.
Terminal boards for power station auxiliaries.
Parts for cars and radios.

George ellison limited made:

Electric switches for:-
Power stations
Factories & mills
Coal mines

Image 3:

Picture of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill

. . . . We have hitherto been at a disadvantage in having to fight a well armed enemy with an ill armed army and recruits . . . .

. . . . in future, our men will fight on equal terms with technical equipment and a little later they will fight on stronger terms . . . A heavy burden will fall on us.

Side display

1940-41 Basic industries increase output
The basic industries of coal, iron machine tool and shipbuilding increase output to start the trickle of weapons.

Image 4:

Display boards

1940 – 41 We made switchgear for basic industries.
Coal – chemicals and high explosives – iron – machine tools – shipbuilding

Side display

1941-43 New war industries got into their stride
The materials and tools were ready. Ellison switches were now needed to control the electric motors driving the machines that produced the stream and finally the flood of weapons.

Image 5:

Display Boards

Ellison switches started the machines that made the weapons. drills lathes presses, millers

Side Display


1940 – 43 Tufnol
workers were engaged in the production of components for Fighters and Bombers. Tanks. Guns. Ships. Barrage Balloons. Radio. Anti-U—Boat devices. Torpedoes.

Image 6:

Display boards

Tufnol components were being made for the navy

Image 7:

Display boards

And for the army

Image 8:

Display boards

And for the air force

Image 9:

Display board – map of Europe

1944 The products of ellison factories
help to beat back the black scourge over Europe. Slowly the darkness over Nazi dominated territory is removed. But we of Ellisons still have much to do.

Side display

Germany is still strong and when peace returns, we will play our part to end war and will help in the rebuilding of the World – to make what we all hope will bea better World.

Image 10:

Display board

To the big stuff

Image 11:

General view of display boards and island stand

Image 12:

One side of Island stand

Centre display

See some of the ways tufnol is used in industry

1. Aircraft
2. Chemical
3. Explosive
4. Food
5. Gas
6. Hydraulic
7. Machine tools
8. Plating
9. Paper making
10. Radio
11. Textiles
12. Quarries

Each industry is shown in turn in the small window on the display, and examples of Tufnol applications and benefits are shown below, e.g. “Quarries” – “Gears, bearings” – “Quiet operation, non-scoring, long life.”

Image 13:

Another side of Island stand – map of Britain

In each of the main industrial areas of Great Britain, Ellison Engineers are in touch with the manufacturers of war weapons. This map, divided into Ellison Sales Areas indicates some of the industries in which Ellison switchgear is used in the war effort.

Image 14:

Third side of Island stand - Ellison leaflet fixed to stand

PREFACE Between the years 1906 and 1944, the name

‘ELLISON’ has become established in two industries Electricity and Plastics. GEORGE ELLISON LTD has grown from a small beginnings to a private Limited Company employing over 1000 workers and has “parented” a vigorous new concern employing over 800 workers to manufacture “TUFNOL”

Chronology of the Ellison Works


Mr George Ellison commenced manufacturing Electrical Switchgear in Warstone Lane, Birmingham


Additional accommodation acquired in Summer Hill Street


Extensions to Warstone Lane Works


Additional Office space acquired


First Section of the Perry Barr Works built in Wellhead Lane


Wellhead Lane Works extended


Further extensions added to offices and works


Sports Ground purchased (6 acres)


Land for TUFNOL Works purchased (3 acres)


Ellison Insulations formed to manufacture ‘TUFNOL’


First section of TUFNOL works built


Extensions made to Works of George Ellison Ltd and Tufnol


Canteen transferred from George Ellison Factory to the Sports Field


Land for Ellison Proving Station purchased (6 acres)


Ellison Proving Station built

Image 15:

Long view of display boards
Many ellison starters have been sent to russia to help to get the war industries of our ally moving again

[Below Soviet War Poster]
[Rush] British arms [into] RUSSIAN hands.

[Below Ellison poster]
No British Tank can meet the Panzers without our part. we workers of [britain?] will see it gets there on time

Image 16:

Shell making machine

This is the switch . . .
That starts the motor . . .
That drives the machine . . .
That makes the shells.

Image 17:

View of production machine with female operator:

Image 18:

General view, machines and light weapons.

Image 19:

Heavy armoured vehicles

Mortar Carrier
Tractor Gun
Bren Gun Carrier

Image 20:

General view. Vehicles and weapons.

Image 21:

As Photo 20, from another viewpoint

Image 22:

General view including: Large searchlight.
Parachutists Folding Motorcycle.
Army Radio Transmitter.
Large machine/instrument labelled “Predictor”,
Awards won by the Ellison Group For Service.

Image 23:

General view including:
Another Parachutists Folding Motorcycle, [Text partly obscured]

??? British ?? Pounder Howitzer “that knocks out Jerry tanks. ELLISON Switchgear starts the machine that makes this gun”,
‘BOFORS 40mm Ack Ack Quick Fire Automatic Gun
42 Mortar Bomb
?? Spigot Mortar

Image 24:

General view of miscellaneous items, including a buoy float:

“Ellison Switchgear Controls the Power to the Factory that makes Buoy for Anti-Torpedo Boom.”

Image 25:

Fighter plane – Spitfire (?)

Image 26:

Long view. Part of the exhibition from behind the Fighter plane.

Image 27:

Long view down the exhibition with many items, including:

Front of Lancaster bomber
Spitfire Nose Cap – “TUFNOL is used within”

Image 28:

Long view. Part of the exhibition including:

‘Nose unit of the Famous Lancaster’
‘400 lb Blockbuster’ (bomb)
“Just out of active service ROLLS ROYCE MERLIN ENGINE used in many British aircraft“
Dowty ?? Undercarriage (large)

Image 29:

General view, mostly:

‘Rotol’ Propellers and laminated blades

Image 30:

As Photo 29, view from other direction.

Image 31:

Battle montage photo & table display of misc small assemblies:

[Table display]
Misc electrical parts & assemblies

“In tropical warfare, heat, oil & moisture insects, etc. can cause breakdown of electrical systems fitted to our fighting equipment. TUFNOL is not affected by the tropics and is therefore invaluable in our battle against the Japs.”

“TUFNOL So important an insulating material is Used in many ways in these units. THESE UNITS ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR WAR EFFORT”

Image 32:

Message board - to employees:

To all workers and thinkers in our Switchgear & Tufnol Works.
“As you have no doubt seen and understood, electric switchgear is a vital part of the tools, plant and machinery without which no war munitions or peacetime products could be made. Tufnol is equally important because it is used in the construction of war weapons and peacetime products including aeroplanes, ships radio and machinery. Many of you have worked with me since the early days of small beginnings about 40 years ago. You all have helped me to give good and faithful service to our customers, whose appreciation and encouragement fostered the growth of our concerns to the magnitude you now see. Our future is as bright as that of any, and as the British and their Rulers have the ancient wisdoms, and fear none but Almighty, we can go forward with hope and confidence. All we have to do is to behave ourselves and do the work that comes to our hands with zeal and faithfulness, then all will be well & when our men in the fighting services come home, they will not find us unfaithful.