Visitors to Queen’s University, Belfast may notice something unusual in front of the main building. There is a distinct lack of metalwork in the fence surrounding the university’s perimeter.
Stumps of iron stick out from the top of the low red-brick wall. Before the war, a metal fence stood atop the wall but a UK wide wartime initiative saw its removal. Many beautiful Victorian fences, gates and railings fell as part of this recycling scheme.
The belief was that this iron could be part of the manufacturing process of tanks and munitions. Factories from Glasgow to London to Belfast processed enormous amounts of metal each day.
The tragedy of the missing metalwork
Across the UK, much of this reappropriated metal was never replaced. The truth is that most of the metal was never used. The UK did not have the required technology to recycle this amount of iron for new purposes. The city of London dumped much of its old iron in the bottom of the Thames Estuary.
We may never know what happened to the missing fence at Queen’s University.
The majority of the UK’s iron was never made into guns, tanks or bombs. The positive effects of the public relations drive from the British government were noticeable. This scheme tied in with the more well-known ‘Dig For Victory’ and ‘Make Do And Mend’ slogans. The people of Belfast were happy to play whatever part they could in the war against Hitler.