The Hoppers Secret Service
It sounds like something straight out of a James Bond movie, a top secret operation in a little town called Boston. With the outbreak of World War 2, life changed dramatically and life in Boston was no different to any where else in the country. Food, fuel and money were in short supply as were high end Swiss watches and diamond rings! Retailers of luxury goods were forced to diversify and help in the war effort. Life had changed.
Stanley T Hopper was an accomplished watch and clockmaker and his skills were soon put to better use by the war office in London. He was trained to make and repair aircraft instruments, now in huge demand to feed the ever growing need of the RAF.
It wasn’t long before Stanley Hopper’s entrepreneurial streak came to the forefront. He quickly realised that he could do this work from his own jewellery workshop in Strait Bargate and by doing so being closer to his family, friends and business that was currently being run by his wife Gwen in his absence. Demand grew and grew so Stanley secretly opened up more workshop space above the shops in Strait Bargate, secretly training and employing up to 30 ladies to make, repair and set up aircraft instruments that would eventually see our pilots emerge triumphant in the skies over Europe.
For good reason this work went unnoticed by the townsfolk of Boston, had this small scale parts factory become common knowledge it could well have been a target and the face of the town centre could have looked very different today.
The picture below shows the reunion of Stanley and Gwen with a number of the ladies taken in 1973 who were instrumental in the production of the equipment that would be used by the RAF bombers and fighters of The Second World War.
Stanley & Gwen with most of the ‘Secret Service’ ladies
A very interesting article that was published in the Boston Standard on Friday 5 October 1973 regarding Boston’s very own secret service it reads…
They worked together in war-time Boston and on Saturday, almost 30 years later the
ladies in our picture were able to reminisce about the days when they were part of the “war effort.”
Not many Bostonians knew of the vital work which went on in a room above Hoppers the jewellers, then in Strait Bargate
from 1942 until the end of the war. The women, then young housewives, were engaged in the assembly of
electrical measuring instruments, voltmeters and ammeters. All of them, previously dress makers and hairdressers, were
specifically chosen for this delicate work because of their nimble fingers. Their boss was Mr Stanley
Hopper, who had elected to take training in this work so that he in turn could teach others It was Mrs Madge Sentance of Willington Road, Kirton, who hit on the idea of a reunion, she and
Mrs Alma Taylor, of Fosdyke set about locating the other 14 girls they had worked with. Because some
of them have moved away from the area, only 10 were able to be present at the “get together” at
The Black Bull in Kirton and for a meal at the White Hart, Boston. Mr and Mrs Hopper were there
to meet them. “It was marvellous” said Mrs Sentance “and we all recognised each other immediately. Of course
we have children now, and some are grandmothers” The only thing which marred the occasion was
the absence, through illness of Mr Len Slingsby, the gunsmith, and the man who worked alongside
them testing the finished instruments. Those pictured with Mr Stanley Hopper are, Olive
Franks, Ralphs Lane, Wyberton. Joy Smalley, Fydell Crescent, Boston. Bertha Driver, Rosebery Avenue, Boston.
Alma Taylor, Fosdyke. Mary Higgins, Washingborough. Kitty Fox, Lincoln. Margaret Little, London. “Toots” Gresham, Old Leake. Eileen Hockerston, Derby and Madge Sentance, Kirton.
The original paper clipping from The Boston Standard dated 5th October 1973