The story of the Nissen huts, the first farm building at Springfield Farm. Remembered by Rodney Mee
In 1956 I had just bought the farm, which at the time only consisted of a few acres and a falling down farm house. But in order to get my farm running I required a few decent farm buildings to store my tractor and farm materials in.
So one day a few years later whilst I was looking in the “farmers weekly” I found an ex W.D (war department) sale was happening in Evesham. At the auction they were going to sell off, amongst other things, a whole lot of Nissen huts. For those that don’t know, a Nissen hut is a low cost prefabricated steel structure building. This is made from a half cylindrical skin of corrugated steel and is suitable for a variety of purposes. But was originally used in WW1 and extensively used in WW2.
Invented by Major Peter Norman Nissen, this is where the Nissen huts name originates. I required a building size of 36ft x 16ft and these Nissen huts were a perfect fit. The Nissen Huts available were brand new, unused and were also out of date as the majority of them were now 20 years old. I told dad about the ex W.D Nissen Huts and he said he would come with me to the sale.
The sale equipment varied all from jeeps, lorries, dumpers and diggers to Nissen huts. The auction organised the sale of bulk items to be sold in batches of 1 at a time, 2 at a time, 5 at a time and 10 at a time. So when it came to the time of auction for the Nissen huts, 1 lot was selling at £160 each. Which was fine as I only wanted 1 Nissen hut. But my dad was adamant that I shouldn’t just buy one lot.
As the auction started and the batches of Nissen Huts increased in quantity, dad stopped me from bidding. I missed out on the lots of 2s, 5s and the early lot of 10s. Dad was switched on and knew that those at auction, like myself, only wanted 1 Nissen hut. So he also knew that the batches would get cheaper as the quantity per batch increased. This was because nobody wanted 20+ Nissen huts. At the end of the auction, we bought 2 lots of 20 huts and paid £75 per Nissen hut instead of £160. Dad said he would pay for the Nissen Huts and that is how we ended up with 40 huts.
Dad then at the same sale bought an old Ex Army lorry at about 2 o clock in the afternoon and he then said “Rod you go & get the lorry and I’ll organise loading one of the huts”. So by 3pm I was driving a 12 tonne crash gearbox lorry to the farm. I went every other day after that over to Evesham and collected a hut. A month later after posting an advert in the Hereford Times I had sold them all to be delivered at about £300 each. I got my hut for £75 and I made a massive profit on the rest.
Dad said it was my first bit of business farming. I think that was when I realised I was a better business man than a farmer!