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The King’s visit to the Royal Small Arms Factory

During the Second World War HM King George VI made morale-boosting visits to factories throughout Great Britain.

On Sunday 6 June 1940, he visited the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield Lock, with the Minister of Supply, Herbert Morrison, where workers were busy making weapons to replace those lost by the British Expeditionary Force during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

During his tour of the factory, the King saw rifles, Bren guns and heavier types of machine guns in every stage of production. He frequently stopped and talked to the workers.

the King in uniform examine a BREN gun with a technician and 3 men in suits during his tour of the factory

King George VI with Herbert Morrison (left) examines a Bren gun. Royal Armouries Archives.

Daphne Laing, who was employed as a wages clerk, recalled that:

“The King visited the RSA when I was there. He was just a man, but a lovely one. He went around talking to the staff, including us in the Cash Office, and afterwards, he had lunch with some of the senior people.” [recorded in an interview for Enfield Local Studies and Archives on 26 July 2019]

He spoke to W.J. Hoy, who was making parts for a Bren gun, and asked him, “Are you working at full pressure?” Hoy replied that they were working 24 hours a day, “We’ve got the men and we know they want the guns.”

Later on, he fired a Bren gun on the outdoor ranges. He sat on a piece of canvas and fired sixty rounds, two magazines, at a target two hundred yards distant. The first magazine he fired in rapid burst, but the second he fired in many single shots. When he got up the King said “Very good. It is a very nice weapon to use. I am surprised there is so little recoil.”

The King in uniform firing a BREN gin while 4 other men look on

King George VI firing a Bren gun on the range at Enfield. Royal Armouries Archives.

The King’s visit to the RSAF was kept secret at the time, but photographs appeared later in newspapers, and film footage shot to be shown in newsreels at cinemas around the country. Even then the name and location the factory were not revealed.

Movietone News, The King visits Sunday work at Factory

Pathe News, The King sees them go to it

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