Bata War Heroes Celebrated in Britain

A moving ceremony on April 27 at the gates of Bata’s former factory in East Tilbury, near London, commemorated the 81 employees who lost their lives in the Second World War.

Along with local members of parliament and the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, hundreds of members of the public turned out to rededicate the war memorial, matching the numbers present for its unveiling in 1955. Whereas Thomas G. Bata, aged 7, was present at the original ceremony, it was left to his sister, Monica Pignal, to represent the Bata family this time around.

The ceremony marked the renovation of the memorial. A dozen names not on the bronze plaques listing staff members who fought and died were added. This followed extraordinary research work from the Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre, a group run by local volunteers. Some of the families of the newly-added names were present.

A number of former employees attended a reception and exhibit in the local village hall after the ceremony. They were eager to share their Bata memories. One couple, there to pay homage to a brother who died during the war, detailed having met at East Tilbury in the 1940s.

Bata opened its East Tilbury factory in 1933, one of a handful in Britain, around the time many of its manufacturing plants were built globally. The town had its own Bata supermarket, hotel, cinema, swimming pool and many other amenities. The factory scaled back operations until finally closing in 2005.

The local community has eagerly preserved the Bata heritage. The Bata Reminiscence and Resource Centre website has hundreds of photos of the town through the ages, and copies of the “Bata Record” newspaper, an early forerunner of Bata World News.

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