Tag Archives: U-boat

Mitcham Foundry and Engineering Ltd.

Based at the James Estate, corner of Bond Road and Western Road.

From the Mitcham and Tooting Advertiser, 18th August 1955

He solved U-boat secret

When the Navy captured a German U-boat during the early part of the war, an underwater metal cutter with an entirely unknown type of valve was discovered inside it.

Admiralty experts were stumped. They wanted to use similar valves on equipment in our own submarines, but did not know how they were made. Naval engineers started to draw up plans and meanwhile one of the small valves was sent to the Mitcham Foundry and Engineering Company.

Mr. Robert Badcoe, one of the two partners at the foundry, studied the valve carefully. He decided, after a lot of thought, that he could make one, and set about it.

The valve took 64 operations and contained 13 different threads, but it was soon completed and sent back to the Admiralty. A few days later blueprints arrived at Mitcham telling Mr. Badcoe how the valve could be made!

Work at the foundry ranges from the manufacture of cheese and sweet moulds to the building of underwater television equipment and secret components for Harwell, the atomic research centre.

Originally a workhouse, and, in the first world war a hospital, the foundry lies back from the Western Road near Mitcham Fair Green.

At a very early age, Mr. Badcoe, who now lives in Worcester Park, was apprenticed to a Tooting firm of carburettor manufacturers. Steadily he built up an extensive knowledge of the motoring and light engineering trade.

For a number of years he acted as a second mechanic to a Maserati motor racing team in this country.

Later, when the firm closed, Mr. Badcoe decided to take over the foundry at Mitcham and with his father-in-law, Mr. George Langlands, as a partner, gradually built up the business.

Mr. Badcoe, now nearing 60, is a man who believes in facing emergencies only when they arise and his 35 hand-picked and skilled men follow in his footsteps. They still refuse to wear protective clothing for their faces and hands although they are continually dealing with white hot molten metal.

When the war started the factory immediately began to manufacture shells, aeroplane parts, fire-fighting apparatus and metal air valves for frogmen’s breathing units.

The firm once received an order from the Air Ministry for thousands of aircraft parts for which over 80 tons of lead had to be used.

It was stored on the floor of one of the workshops, and a few days later, when workmen reached the bottom of the pile, they found that the weight had caused it to sink about four feet into the ground.

A big order which the foundry is dealing with at present is a speciality and they have often been called upon to make such things as jewellers’ lathes for Hatton Garden merchants.

Mr. Badcoe and his team are now working on a special type of outboard propellor unit for a Commonwealth Government.

Each unit is made up of hundreds of different parts and often the men have had to make their own jigs and fixtures.

(photo) Mr. Badcoe’s son, Christopher, places a finished unit among the other equipment for an important contract.

Note that some online company check websites show this company as number 00245458 at 174 London Road, CR4 3LD, the engineering works at the rear of the Swan.

James Estate
132 Western Road

Castings, Engineering.

Borough of Mitcham List of Factories,
Town Clerk’s Department,
July 1963.
Available at Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.
Reference L2 (670) MIT

Dramatic Re-Appearance of Mitcham Man

Mitcham Tooting Mercury
2nd October, 1914

As stated last seek, there were at least two Mitcham men on the boats sunk by the German submarines in the North Sea, viz., W. J. Richardson of Marian road Lonesome, and T. B. Smith, of Tamworth Cottage, Commonside East. The former was on the Aboukir, and the latter on the Cressy. Neither of their names appeared in the official list of those saved, and though nothing has been heard of the man Richardson, Smith made a dramatic reappearance on Sunday evening. Enquiries at the Admiralty on Saturday evening led to the worst fears being entertained, and the family had practically given up all hope of seeing the boy again, when, on Sunday evening, he arrived home. The nature of the surprise and pleasure at the home-coming can be imagined, if not described.

When seen by a representative of the “Mercury,” the gallant “Jack” was looking the worse for his experience, though, as a matter of fact, be was still feeling the effects of the ordeal through which he had gone. The agonising cries when the boat went down and we were all in the water, he stated, were something awful and I only hope I shall never have such an experience again. “Don’t you want to go back?” asked our representative. “Oh, yes I want to have a smack at the Germans. I must have something for my money, you know.”

The gallant tar confirmed the published reports about the disaster, and explained that the first they on the Cressy knew anything was amiss was when someone shouted “The Aboukir’s gone.” Shortly after the first alarm was raised, a torpedo struck the Cressy, and the boot immediately began to sink. At the time he was on duty as a stoker, and he and his mates kept the fires going until further effort was useless and then went on deck. Only a few minutes elapsed before the Cressy went to the bottom. For two hours and a quarter we was swimming about in the water, … feeling much exhausted when picked up by a Dutch trawler and taken to Holland. A Dutch fishing smack turned tail on us.

“We sunk a German submarine,” he proudly exclaimed. “We were treated very well in Holland and could not have been treated better at home.” The survivors on the trawler were taken some distance inland, and then brought back to Flushing on Saturday, where they embarked for Chatham, arriving there on Sunday morning. Stoker Smith was a seaman for six years, and, strange to relate, his first voyage was on the Cressy, which then went to South African waters. From there he went to Malta, and, while at that station, the Messina earthquake occurred, and for the plucky assistance he rendered on that occasion, he was awarded the Italian medal. His father was in the Army, and saw some fighting in Pekin in 1899, while a brother is with the Allied Forces in France. As to how he is getting on it is impassible to say, inasmuch as no word has been beard of him since he left England in August.

With regard to Richardson, he leaves a widow and five little children.

See also Loss of HMS Aboukir, Cressy and Hogue

Richardson, W. J. is on the Mitcham War Memorial

For more details on W.J. Richardson, see the Mitcham War Memorials blog