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How a British Major saved VW

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Had it not been for the efforts of a Major in the REME in 1945 immediately at the end of World War 2, the success of Germany’s Volkswagen may possibly not have happened. The story goes back to the ruin that was the VW factory at Wolfsburg and the person in question, Major Ivan Hirst of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) was ordered to see what could be done to restore the factory and undertake getting cars produced there again.

Somehow the Major managed to get a contract to build 20,000 Beetles and to completely restore that bombed out building. At the time is was believed that it would not be possible for the VW factory at Wolfsburg to survive, but survive it did and Volkswagen played a huge part in the revival of what became the post war German economic miracle.

Major Hirst ran the factory until 1949 and during this time oversaw the development of many early prototypes which included the Camper Van, which was originally named the Plattenwagen. So with the help of an unassuming British Major, the VW Company went on to become one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world. Strange to think, when Major Hirst went to the Wolfsburg factory, it had been offered to the British car industry as reparation, but it was turned down on the grounds that such cars would never sell!

Volkswagen Wolfsburg industrial plantPicture: Roger Wollstadt

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