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September 22, 2020

Women Testing the Guns They Made for World War II at the Inglis Munitions Plant in Ontario, Canada, 1944

Ten pretty girls, all workers at the John Inglis Co. plant, line up with 10 Bren guns built with their own hands, 1944. These little guns are going to Allied forces all over the world-but Brens cost a lot of money, Canadian money. One $100 bond will buy approximately three Bren guns; at their present cost. It takes a lot of bonds to keep the Inglis plant making Brens.

(Photo: Toronto Star Archives)

John Inglis and Company was a Canadian manufacturing firm which made weapons for the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth military forces during the World War II era, then later became a major appliance manufacturer. Whirlpool Corporation acquired control of Inglis in 1987 and changed the company's name to Whirlpool Canada in 2001.

The Inglis name has a proud heritage in Canada. In 1859, armed with metalworking and pattern-making skills learned in England and Scotland, John Inglis moved to Guelph, Ontario and started Mair, Inglis and Evatt which built machinery for grist and flour mills.

In 1881, operating under the name John Inglis and Sons, the company moved to facilities on Strachan Avenue in Toronto. But in 1898, with the enterprise growing madly, John Inglis died. William, one of John’s five sons, assumed leadership of the business. In 1902, he led the company into the manufacture of marine steam engines and waterworks pumping engines, and he discontinued production of its previous product line.

When William Inglis died in 1935, the new Toronto Island Ferry was named after him in appreciation of his significant contribution to the city’s industrial and cultural progress.

Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co. Ltd. and known as “Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl” posing with a finished Bren gun in the John Inglis Co. Ltd. Bren gun plant, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1941.

Two years later, an American named Major J.E. Hahn, purchased the company and made significant changes to its operations. Under Major Hahn’s leadership, the company assisted in the World War II effort by manufacturing guns for the Canadian and British governments. More than 17,800 people were employed at this time creating the need for expansion at the Strachan Avenue plant.

When the war ended in 1946, the company began to manufacture consumer products for the first time. Fishing tackle, house trailers, oil burner pumps and domestic heaters and stoves were among the diverse products offered.


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