The Royal Mint at Pinewood

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By Richard Farmer

The Royal Mint has been tasked with making Britain’s coinage considering the fact that the 9th century, and in the course of its extended historical past it has been acutely delicate to the risk of counterfeiting and forgery. It is thus ironic that during the Second World War the web site selected for the erection of a subsidiary Mint was Pinewood film studios, wherever fabrication and passing the synthetic off as serious were a way of lifetime. Here is the Pinewood web site map displaying the subsidiary Mint’s site.

The Pinewood Mint commenced get the job done in June 1941 and was located in the studio’s scene dock, delayed a bit by the require to obtain a new property for the various sets it experienced formerly housed. It shaped section of a broader technique of dispersal – that is, going important industrial infrastructure outside the house important cities and re-developing it in supposedly safer destinations. Pinewood was not the only studio to be taken around the significant size and semi-rural spot of numerous British film creation facilities intended that they ended up requisitioned by govt and market (see Sarah Road, Historical Journal of Movie, Radio and Television posting to be printed 2022/3). Setting up a subsidiary Mint at Pinewood was intended to allow for for the uninterrupted striking of coins really should the most important facility in east London be harmed or place out of action by enemy bombs. This turned out to be a reasonable precaution: during the war the main Mint was hit by ‘several superior-explosive bombs, 4 anti-aircraft shells, and a lot of incendiary bombs,’ with harm causing short term suspension of function (Craig 1953: 348). Pinewood was selected mainly because Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire was thought close enough to the metropolis to be very easily available, but far enough outside the house London to be fewer at possibility from the Luftwaffe. Even so, the studios had been camouflaged in an try to make them significantly less visible from the air, as can be viewed in this aerial shot.

While the generation of industrial aspect movies ceased at Pinewood through the war, the studio was household to several services film units, which include the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU). The correspondence established out down below – which has been lightly edited from originals contained in National Archives file MINT 20/1805 – demonstrates that relationships between the studio’s different tenants had been not always entirely harmonious.

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On 24 June 1943, Deputy Master and Comptroller of the Mint, J. H. Craig, wrote to the Undersecretary of Point out for War about recent functions at Pinewood: 

About 10 am on the 22nd June, 1943, a mass of significant explosive was detonated at a distance of 100 to 150 yards from the premises of the Royal Mint in Pinewood studios, Iver Heath, Bucks, by a Lieutenant, R.E., acting as component of, or in behalf of, the Army Movie Photographic Unit … The explosion was not established in connection with military services workout routines or for needs of research, but appears to have been a mere preliminary procedure supposed to lead in the long run to the taking of some portion of a cinematograph film to be exhibited, if effective, for enjoyment. 

The detritus from the explosion penetrated the roof of the Royal Mint in a range of places, the holes currently being up to 8 inch diameter, and injected into the premises a excellent offer of grime, mingled with traveling or slipping fragments of glass from the roof. In current conditions, the destruction will be hard to restore entirely. I realize that a neighbouring electric powered ability plant and a get rid of containing aeroplane sections were being weakened relatively more seriously, and that this is not the initially explosion of some magnitude which has occurred as Pinewood studios.  

It is realised that the officers utilized on each film do the job can’t be predicted to be people of significant performance, but it is hoped that the Military Council will choose these types of methods as are requisite to ensure that the dealing with by them of significant explosive or other lethal apparatus is so executed as not to endanger lifetime, plant, or critical function.

The Mint was obviously aggravated to have arrive under pleasant fireplace, not the very least due to the fact it experienced occur to Pinewood in an endeavor to minimise war-related disruption to its operations. A lot more than a month handed before Craig gained a reply, sent on 27 July 1943 behalf of the Army’s director of public relations:

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Sir, with reference to your letter … on the matter of harm induced to the premises of the Royal Mint at Pinewood studios by the exploding of an ammonal charge, I am directed to specific regret that this must have happened.

A total investigation has been created and in the check out of the Royal Engineer in demand, the amount of explosive made use of was not too much. It is, of training course, challenging to forecast with accuracy the specific impact of exploding a charge in the ground, as substantially depend on the consistence of the earth. In this instance clods of earth had been flung even further than was calculated, with the regrettable result described in your letter. 

I am to stage out, nevertheless, that your animadversion upon the efficiency of the Royal Engineer officer thorough to have out this perform is without the need of basis. Considerably from remaining, as you imply, an officer of a small conventional of performance, he belongs to a area unit really skilled in demolition do the job. In the perspective of this Office no blame linked with this incident attached to this officer or to any person else engaged on the creation of this significant film of the North African marketing campaign. That the injury should really have transpired is unlucky, and I am thus to convey the hope that you will accept the apology of this Department.

The manufacture of cash recommenced right after a quick spell of inactivity. The Mint remaining Pinewood soon soon after the war finished, bringing an conclusion to what wags suggested was the only time period in which the studio actually created cash.

References

John Craig, The Mint: A Record of the London Mint from Advertisement 287 to 1948 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953).

Sarah Street, ‘Requisitioning movie studios in wartime Britain’ (forthcoming in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television2022-23).

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