Senior members of Britain’s industries often had to travel around the country in the Second World War to attend meetings, consult on new innovations or to witness tests in the more remote of Britain’s proving grounds. In order to do this they were usually allocated a petrol ration by the government for their cars as they were seen as being vital to the wartime economy and they would have to stay away from home in the few boarding houses and hotels that had not been taken over for war work. They would also, of course, be entitled to claim expenses back from their firms for living costs, fuel etc. Most large companies were fairly generous with their expenses at this period, keen to retain crucial staff. Expenses were not a given of course and staff had to submit expenses claim forms to be signed off by their managers and then processed by the company’s accounts department and today we are looking at a selection of receipts for expenses for a senior member of Rolls Royce involved in aircraft engine production:
These forms were used by a Dr A B Miller and it seems he was based in Derby and travelled around the country. His expenses account was pretty generous as in the above form he has claimed 14/- for a ten hour trip without a night away, £2. 10/- for the time spent overnight and £4 5/- in miscellaneous expenses . A private soldier was earning about 2/- a day during the war so this was a pretty generous amount of money! The form above is written by hand and a little hard to read, others in the selection are typed which makes it much easier to follow:
The backs of the forms occasionally offer a little more detail as to exactly what Dr. Miller was doing on these trips, such as this one that shows he was entertaining guests form the Ministry of Air Production and so indicates that he was involved in some way with aircraft, probably the development of production of aero engines:
Dr. Miller seems to have been based in Derby, there was a Rolls Royce factory producing Merlin engines on Nightingale Road in the city. The factory was obviously a target for the Luftwaffe and Peter Thomas was a small boy in 1942 living nearby when the factory was raided:
The day they bombed Rolls Royce in 1942 I know that at 8 o’clock in the morning my mother was looking out of the window. A girl in a white Mac came running down Osmaston Park Road followed by a German plane which came down the street, machine gunning the roofs. It was raining heavily that day. On the same morning my father was a gate man at Rolls Royce at Hawthorn street gate. A German plane came and bombed the steel stores. That morning he’d walked to the gate for a bit of a breather and a cigarette. The bomb fell and when he turned around the hut that he usually sat in looked as if a million moths had eaten it, it had been affected so much. He got shrapnel in his arms so had to have his arm bandaged and in a sling. Co-incidentally, the house next door to where his hut was, was my aunties. Her home was blown to pieces. My mother’s aunties lived in the high street and that got blown up too. For the small amount of bombs that fell in Derby my family didn’t do too well out of it.
After the war I worked taking sliding partitions off the roof of the company. They had a handle on the top of the roof and they were wound across the roof. We had to go up and take them off. On top of the roof we discovered that painted on it was a pond, a lake, a church, a village, trees – it was made to look like the countryside to confuse the Germans and make them think that they weren’t looking at Rolls Royce at all.