Along the A417 Missing Link in Gloucestershire, excavations conducted as part of ground investigation work for the Highways England dualling scheme have unearthed a brass manufacturer’s plate from a generator, dated 1939. This artefact gives a fascinating glimpse of the past, found in an area where historic aerial photographs show that a military camp, a heavy anti-aircraft battery and a barrage balloon were located at the time of World War Two. The generator, perhaps for a searchlight, was made by R. A. Lister & Co. Ltd, a local Gloucestershire company, based in Dursley.
Founded in 1867 by Sir Robert Ashton Lister to produce agricultural machinery, the company focussed solely on War Department production during World War One, producing petrol engines, lighting sets and munitions. Most of their workforce was female at this time, as many of the men had left for the front. Before World War Two, the company diversified its business to also include the manufacture of diesel engines, with their business expanding worldwide.
The factory returned to war production at the onset of World War Two, producing engines, lighting sets, agricultural implements, and shell cases. HM Queen Mary, who spent much of the war at nearby Badminton House, toured the factory in 1940.Over the course of the war, Lister increased production by opening components and sub-assembly plants in other parts of Gloucestershire, at Nympsfield (1942), Wotton-under-Edge (1943) and Cinderford (1944).
When visiting Germany to protect company assets, Charles Ashton Lister saw first-hand the rise of the Nazi Party and used the company’s assets in Germany to assist those trying to rescue Jewish families from Germany and Austria by bribing officials.