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Engineering Institutions launch exhibition to mark role of WWII engineers

05 September 2019

To mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, the UK’s three largest Professional Engineering Institutions joined forces to launch an online exhibition to explore the role of engineers and engineering during the war.

Advertisement encouraging the voluntary rationing of electricity at the beginning of the Second World War. (Courtesy of the IET Archive)

This is the second collaboration of this kind by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the IET and follows a similar exhibition which looked at engineering in World War One.

“This exhibition highlights the vital wartime role played by all branches of engineering. The Second World War marked a shift in the nature of warfare, when advancements in technology and industry became a key advantage,” said Sarah Rogers, Head of the Information and Library Service at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

“Engineers helped to keep vital troop supply lines moving, to protect civilians, and used their expertise to make military advances applicable to post-war civilian life.”

The exhibition highlights the stories and achievements of engineers and engineering firms during and after the Second World War.

Image of the Hawker Tempest fighter plane which was powered by the Napier Sabre engine. (Image courtesy of the IMechE Archive)

It uses archive documents and photographs to trace engineering developments including the Napier Sabre engine used in Hawker Tempest fighter planes, civil engineering options for air raid shelters and the importance of maintaining a reliable electricity supply for domestic and industrial use.

“The Second World War changed the engineering profession and established the importance of engineering in rebuilding post-war society. This exhibition offers an insight into the everyday lives of individual members, whether they were on active service, prisoners of war, working on the home front or advising on national projects,” said Anne Locker, Library and Archives Manager at the IET.

The exhibition reveals some of the individual stories of engineers involved in the war. Material from personal collections sheds new light on how intelligence on German engineering advances was gathered shortly after the end of the war and gives an account of the experiences of those engineers who became prisoners of war.

Visit engineersatwar.imeche.org where you can explore both the First World War and Second World War exhibitions.


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