Banbury’s major behind-the-scenes role in a vital World War II air battle


pic: Banbury Historical Society

A parade on Sunday offers a chance to reflect on the vital role the town played

The Battle of Britain will be commemorated in Banbury this Sunday.   The battle was fought in the skies above southern England during the summer and autumn of 1940 and the RAF’s defeat of Germany’s Luftwaffe was a major factor in preventing Hitler’s forces from invading England. 

Banbury played a massive behind-the-scenes role in the battle.

In the 1930s much of the country’s aircraft industry metal was supplied by the Northern Aluminium Company (NAC) on the Southam Road in Banbury.   The site later became Alcan, but was always affectionately known as The Ally.

In the early years of World War II aluminium from the factory was used in the manufacturing of RAF planes including Spitfires and Lancaster bombers.

It has been said that if the Banbury factory hadn’t existed, or had been bombed, the outcome of the Battle of Britain would have been very different.

To deceive German bombers and protect the site from air raids, the real factory was camouflaged and a decoy building was erected north of the town.  The fake factory – known as the ‘dummy ally’ – was built in fields near Great Bourton.

The plan worked. The real factory was never bombed while the decoy was targeted on 3 October 1940.

The dummy Ally after the 1940 bombing – pic: Banbury Historical Society

On Sunday Banbury will commemorate the Battle of Britain and reflect on the vital role played by our town.   A military and civic parade will set off from Broad Street at midday, march up High Street into Horsefair and to St Mary’s Church for a memorial service.

A flypast by a Lancaster bomber at 1.56pm, above Horsefair, will be the highlight of the event.

The event is organised by Banbury Town Council.  Leader of the council Kieron Mallon said: “This event is a sincere tribute to those who defended this country in the most courageous way. Many lost their lives and they and those who survived the battle must never be forgotten.”

The fake factory was dismantled soon after the war but the dummy gateposts remained until the 1970s.

The actual factory closed in 2007 with many of the buildings demolished in 2009 ready for development, with the area now housing the Amazon factory.

However, a number of structures did survive, including the art deco office building, gate posts and memorial garden at the site, which have been given grade II listed status.

Cllr Mallon added: “Banbury is one of a number of towns across the country that commemorate the Battle of Britain every year. We are proud to do so and even though the town’s aluminium factory has gone, we should not forget the part it and its workers played in the war.”

Pictures: Banbury Historical Society “Cake and Cockhorse” Volume 20 Issue 1

Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam

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