1939 brought with it the outbreak of the Second World War. The Institution moved out of London to occupy The Meadows at Bletchworth in Surrey. Here, “the bulk of the Institution's work (Accounts, Records, Membership, Examinations, National Certificates, National Service and general correspondence' was being carried out...with about twenty-eight members of the Staff (fourteen sleeping on the premises).”
In July 1940, The Meadows was requisitioned by the military, and the IMechE moved back to One Birdcage Walk, by then a much-altered building. The entrance and roof had been sandbagged, and the windows netted. The basement had been turned into day and night air raid shelters by the local council.
Much like during the First World War, Government departments made use of the building, and in January 1943, a group of senior REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) used the lecture theatre to plan the mechanical engineering support for Operation Overlord and the invasion of Normandy.
In October 1945 the lecture theatre was also the venue for the first public lecture by Frank Whittle on ‘The early history of the Whittle jet propulsion gas turbine’.
For a more in-depth look at the impacts of mechanical engineering on the Second World War visit our Engineers at War online exhibition: Engineers at War