The Sandiacre Screw Company (1)

This is the first of  twelve posts which will tell the story of Keith Doncaster. They will appear over the course of, probably, a year, and I would encourage you to read them all. Keith was just one of the 119 young men from Nottingham High School who perished in the fight to save England and freedom during World War 2. I have found out more about Keith than any other casualty. What I did find is a wonderful advertisement for the evils of war, as what may well have been just one cannon shell from a night fighter, ultimately, deprived thousands of people of their livelihoods, in one of the very few large factories in a small town in Derbyshire called Sandiacre.

Ivan Keith Doncaster was born on October 17th 1923. His father was Raymond Doncaster who was an engineer. Ray’s father was Sir Robert Doncaster, the founder of the Sandiacre Screw Company, one of the biggest firms in the Nottingham area, with enormous and extensive premises on Sandiacre’s Bradley Street:

Here’s one of their adverts:

And a map shows how big the factory was and how many people it must have provided with employment. The orange arrow points to only some of the pale brownish area occupied by the factory. Nottingham is to the east:

The Doncaster family lived in a very large house in Longmoor Lane in Sandiacre, a small town of some nine thousand inhabitants, almost equidistant from Derby and Nottingham and to the east of Junction 25 of the M1.

Keith’s mother was Evelyn Mary Fell. Keith’s father Ray Doncaster served in the army during the First World War, eventually becoming a Lieutenant in the Army of Occupation of the Rhine. His elder brother, Robert Ivan Doncaster, had been killed in action on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916, only 50 days after he arrived in France. He is buried in Authuille, three miles north of the town of Albert.

When he returned in 1919, Ray became Assistant Works Manager of his father’s company. He then became Works Manager, eventually replacing his father as Managing Director. He retired during the 1960s. It does not take a fortune teller to work out that, had he lived, Ray’s only son, Ivan Keith Doncaster, would himself one day have acceded to that position and the factory would have gone on, providing money, food and accommodation for countless numbers of people not just in the town, but from the densely populated area around. Instead, Keith did not come back from his war in Bomber Command and, during the 1960s, the company just disappeared, taking perhaps thousands of jobs with it. And just one cannon shell would have been enough to bring Keith Doncaster’s Lancaster down.

Here and there a few red brick buildings remain. And a few walls. They are all that is left of the Sandiacre Screw Company nowadays:



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham, The High School

26 responses to “The Sandiacre Screw Company (1)

  1. The loss of one affects many. It is an old story, but one rarely recognized. I look forward to your posts.

  2. Such a poignant introduction, John

    • Thank you, Derrick. Keith Doncaster was the only son of a very, very rich family, yet he did not hesitate to join the most dangerous organisation on offer, Bomber Command. His story has a lot to teach us.

  3. GP

    Tis a generation we will ne’er see again!

    • You are so right. Sir Robert Doncaster was an extremely rich man who could no doubt have found a vital job for his grandson to do and thereby avoid joining the armed forces. In those days, though, buying false medical certificates was a very rare occurrence, and Keith went to war just like my Dad did, and all of his friends. And like many of them, he paid the ultimate price.

  4. This gave me a memory nudge. From 1981 to 1984 I worked for Erewash Borough Council in the offices in Mark street in Sandiacre.

  5. How unfortunate that the Sandiacre Screw Company did not survive. Each casualty of war, like that of Keith Doncaster, affects the lives of many others. Yet we humans continue to flirt with war.

    • Yes we do and there is some pretty scary flirting going on right now. I begin to get a little frightened when one side is quite clearly only interested in military action rather than dialogue. As Churchill said, though, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.”

  6. It’s incredible how one ‘small’ action can change the course of history so easily. It makes you think about fate and whether it’s true or not. I must admit as I go through life, I think that it does play a part in our lives.

    • That’s one of the big questions in life, isn’t it? It is certainly fairly obvious that so many very large and important outcomes depend on some very minor factors right at the beginning of whatever is happening. At the same time, though, it is a very difficult step to take to develop the initial premise and to say that all those tiny factors are the deliberate planning of some superbeing.
      The older I get, the more I tend to believe that our world is more a domain belonging to Satan than to God. Indeed. I think the latter being is increasingly notable by his absence.

  7. Such a tragedy and people continue their evil deeds, if it is not war it is something equally bad. Thank you for the post.

    • Thank you very much for that. It has been on the internet intermittently for the past few years, and the URL address is in the relevant volume of my four books on the war dead of the High School. It is such a pity that there is no sound!

  8. Pingback: Day 7 of the March  SOLSC! #SOL2022   – Mukhamani

  9. Pierre Lagacé

    I have missed that post and all the others John.

    • Well, I hope you enjoy them all if you read them. Keith Doncaster is the one High School casualty I have found out most about. Just search for “Sandiacre” and you should find them all easily.

  10. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget II and commented:
    John Knifton’s first post about the the Sandiacre Screw Company.

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