After The War Was Over
The Pearsons of Liverpool Story
This limited print (1500 copies) book is focused on the activities of a Liverpool, England firm that had the task of assembling crated vehicle “kits” shipped from North America to the UK for final assembly prior to delivery to Allied forces. This firm was the Pearson Brothers body and coach building company, an active company in the inter-war period. During WWII, the firm also reconditioned and rebuilt battle damaged vehicles, as early as during the fall of France in 1940. Post-war, the Pearson company wound up with many ex-military vehicles, some still crated up, and began the process of readying them for civilian use. This photographic study covers the years 1939 - 1949.
This book was published in 2007, in a limited run of 1500 volumes. A number of copies have been acquired by David Doyle Books, and are available on his website.
Format - hardcover, landscape format
Page Count - heavyweight, glossy paper, 144 pages
Size - 9.0” x 12.0”
Photos - period black and white
Tables / Drawings / Diagrams - none
All text and photo captions are in English
What's in the Book?
This book has no table of contents. It opens with 8 pages of mostly text, which gives the reader some background information on how the Pearson Brothers firm was contracted by the British government in 1939 to assist the war effort by assembling badly needed military vehicles that were shipped to Liverpool in kit form from Canada and then later the USA. These opening pages also describe the remarkable survival of the once secret images that are the basis for this book.
This book first covers the war years where the company’s focus was war material oriented, and then the immediate post-war years, when the company pivoted to completing left over vehicle kits and rebuilding/recondition war weary surplus vehicles, making them suitable for civilian use.
The kit vehicles originating in North America crossed the Atlantic by freighter, arriving at the docks of Liverpool. Liverpool was hit hard by the blitz, with the Luftwaffe targeting Liverpool’s dock area. Undeterred by by this, firms like the Pearson Brothers moved their operations around Liverpool and environs, using whatever suitable spaces that could be found. They even cleared bomb damaged sites and rebuilt new workshops there.
Above, a fascinating image of a larger facility seen in Oct of 1943. At least three different vehicle types can be seen being assembled or refurbished, including White Scout cars and CCKW 353 trucks. Cargo bodies can be seen being put together in the image foreground.
Above - another workshop showing a wide variety of vehicles, taken in 1945. This site had suffered prior fire damage from bombing raids.
There are quite a few full page sized images, and with a large format book like this, a full page image is truly large. The detail that can be made out is amazing, and the images are so clear that you can almost smell the exhaust fumes.
Fortunately for us, Pearson Bros. did a thorough job of photographically documenting examples of their work, leaving behind excellent photos of the wide variety of the vehicles entering their shops in both kit form or as battle damaged examples.
PLEASE NOTE - the images in this book are sharp and crisp, reproduced very well on the heavy, glossy paper. My photos taken for this review do the images no justice at all.
The range of military vehicles assembled at the Pearson Bros. shops in Liverpool was amazingly wide, with Canadian Military Pattern vehicles dominating production early on, and American vehicles coming in later once America became active in the war.
Above - a great image of a 6x6 Mack truck, taken at Pearson’s “gravel yard” site.
As mentioned earlier, Pearson Bros. built or reconditioned a wide range of vehicles, including some unusual, rarely seen types.
Above - an armored snowmobile! The technical description of this vehicle is; Snowmobile, Canadian, Armoured MKI (Farland & Delorme). Powered by a Cadillac V-8 engine, this interesting vehicle was armed with a Bren gun and Stens. This is the sole image of this vehicle found in the treasure trove of photos surviving from Pearson’s war time efforts.
As can be seen in the image above, the photo captions which accompany these photographs are quite complete. A lot of information is provided, including detailed information on the vehicles, production numbers, and locations of photo sites if identified. In some cases, the locations where photographs were taken during the war years had been bombed into an unrecognizable state, making the authors job of identifying photo sites quite difficult.
Pearson Bros. took a least one (and probably more) initial image of each vehicle type that they worked on ( assembled or re-conditioned) during the war. They make up the bulk of the images in this volume. The range seems to have been restricted to mostly wheeled vehicles, although some tracked vehicles are seen in these images. In addition to actual vehicles, trailers, fork trucks and other miscellaneous items were also built by Pearson Bros.
Above - a crisp image of a rebuilt Dodge WC56 Command Car, taken in one of locations that the authors couldn’t identify post-war.
Some of my favorite images in the book are those showing completed vehicles lined up outside of the Pearson shops, ready to convoy to an Army depot. These images are so crisp and bright that vehicle details can easily be studied, and again, the large size of these images is a plus.
Above - 20 Ford of Canada C39QB CMO tractors mounting 40mm Bofors guns, hauling Willys “Ben Hur” trailers.
Above - a spectacular two page spread photo dating from 1945, showing an incredible variety of vehicles built or re-built by Pearson Bros. (Note lettering on smokestack, left of center). Jeeps, half-tracks, cargo trucks of various makes, wreckers, armored cars, all sorts of vehicles can be seen in this fascinating image. Looking at this image you can almost feel the damp British air and smell the exhaust fumes.
Post-1945, Pearson Bros. found itself with countless vehicle kits still on hand awaiting assembly, and many vehicles awaiting rebuilding / reconditioning. They pivoted quickly to reworking and converting these former machines of war to vehicles suitable for civilian use. Augmented by vehicles bought at auction from government sources, Pearson Bros. stayed busy and profitable in the post-war years. The latter half of this volume is filled with good images of these “civilian-ized” vehicles.
The book concludes with images of these Pearson Bros. post-war civilian vehicles, with final views of busses and the like, taken in 1949. These were the latest images found in the box of photos that formed the basis of this photographic study, all images dating from 1939-1949.
When I opened this book for the first time I had no idea what to expect. The title is a bit mis-leading, as most of the book deals with the vital war-time activities conducted by Pearson’s of Liverpool. Almost unexpectedly, I found this book to be surprisingly fascinating.
They could easily have have put “time capsule” in the title someplace, because that is very much the feel you quickly get with this book. The images are of the highest quality, the subject matter is very interesting, and the written content is very detailed. This is a fascinating look at wartime Britain, and the industries that supported its war effort.
The book provides crystal clear images of a very wide range of WWII vehicles (as well as post-war conversions), as well as providing some truly atmospheric images of the factories and workshops taken during trying times. The images taken outside on the streets are equally as interesting and immersive, with the large format of this book making for quite large images to study.
This book is an immersive look at vehicles, a process, and the places where a pre-war company contributed heavily towards Allied victory in WWII. I enjoyed it considerably.
Thanks to David Doyle Books for the review copy
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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