Illustration by Joda, @jonydaga
A volunteer trooper at age 22, Allen West quickly ascended the ranks to gain command of his own squadron during the Boer War. Wounded in battle, he returned to Britain to convalesce in the tranquillity of Hove.
In 1910, he founded the electrical engineering company Allen West & Co, which was based on Lewes Road. One of the company’s first contracts was the 1911 supplying of gear components to the Admiralty. They moved on to manufacturing starters for several ships in the Royal Navy. West was a soldier in both World Wars, the company tasked in his absence with contributing specially designed electrical equipment to aid the war effort.
The needs of the Second World War galvanised the company, the staff body jumping from 2,000 to 4,500 employees, many of which were women. Allen West & Co is said to have played a role in the development of radar during World War II. The company also supplied mining equipment, as well as equipment for steelworks and power stations. It even provided the parts for the pre-fabricated invasion harbour, code-named ‘Mulberry’, which was assembled off Selsey prior to D-Day in June 1944. Soon the company became one of the biggest manufacturers of ‘switchgear and control gear’ of the 20th century. Between the forties and the coming of Amex, Allen West & Co was the largest company in Brighton and Hove, and had branches in France and South Africa.
Its founder died on January 19th, 1957, aged 80. Saskia Solomon