Leonard Williams & Co Ltd Packard building in England 1945Working as a volunteer at the Packard Proving Grounds can be surprisingly interesting for a history buff…..

One morning, while entering scanned photographs into our data base, I came across these two intriguing shots of a Packard building in England in 1945.  The “before” shot features a lovely Art Deco structure while the “after” shot (below) shows it blown to pieces.  Being a World War II history buff, I felt compelled to research this incident.

I found that on March 21, 1945, a German V-2 rocket destroyed the Leonard Williams and Co., Ltd. Packard Car Works and Showroom in Brentford, a suburb of London, England.  This was one of the last V-2 rockets launched against Britain during World War II.  The rocket program, led by physicist Wernher von Braun, was a last-ditch effort by the Germans to turn the tide of the war.  Between September 1944 and March 1945, more than 1,100 V-2s rained down on the British Isles, mostly in and around London.  Estimates put the death toll from the missiles at around 2,700 people.  Thousands more were injured.  At the Packard site in Brentford, 34 people were killed and more than 100 seriously wounded.

The V-2 rocket was a technologically advanced, 46-foot tall missile that carried a 1-ton payload and had a range of about two hundred miles.  The missiles were launched from mobile units near the coast in northern France.  Due to their design, the missiles were silent as they fell from the sky, which prevented advanced warning of their approach, unlike aerial bombing raids and the earlier V-1 rocket “buzz bombs.”  The “V” stood for vergeltungswarffen, or “retaliatory weapon.”   At this time, German cities were being heavily bombed by the Allies and the Germans desperately fought back with their most advanced weapons.

Some sources state that at the time of the rocket attack, the Leonard Williams Packard building was operating as a munitions factory.  It had originally been built in 1929 to assemble and display Packard automobiles.  Located on the Great West Road in Brentford, the Packard building stood with several other industrial buildings that housed such companies as Hudson-Essex Motors and the Firestone Tyre Company.  Many of the buildings along what became known as The Golden Mile were designed, like the Packard building, in the Art Deco style and were considered by many to be architectural gems.  Some still stand today.  But all that is left of the Packard building site is the sweeping staircase that led to the showroom. More photographs and information associated with the former Packard building in Brentford can be found by following this link: http://www.packardinfo.com/xoops/html/modules/dealer/View.php?ID=114