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Remembering The Queen

Princess Elizabeth, as a 2nd Subaltern in the ATS, leans against a vehicle during training. Imperial War Museum, TR 2835.

Remembering The Queen, the courage and strength given to all.

As Queen Elizabeth II crosses that bridge and meets back up with the Duke. We would like to look back on something special to us, close to our hearts.

From a courageous and inspiring Young Princess to the longest serving Queen.

At only 16, the then Princess Elizabeth took her first regimental inspection, in 1944 Princess Elizabeth turned 18, she insisted upon joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the British Army, starting as a mechanic.

In March 1945. Princess Elizabeth began her training as a mechanic. Only 2 months later the war was over.

Princess Elizabeth, as a 2nd Subaltern in the ATS, leans against a vehicle during training. Imperial War Museum, TR 2835.
WOMEN AT WAR 1939 – 1945 (TR 2835) Auxiliary Territorial Service: Princess Elizabeth, a 2nd Subaltern in the ATS, wearing overalls and standing in front of an L-plated truck. In the background is a medical lorry. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:


At this very same time, Ivan Hirst was busy in Germany.  How inspiring the young Princess’s presence must have been, giving the strength and courage to succeed.

Ivan Hirst – British Officer and Manager of Volkswagen’s Postwar Recovery. 

Not only the actual survival of the Volkswagen Works in Wolfsburg after the Second World War, but also their present form can be largely accredited to the efforts of one Englishman: Ivan Hirst. The international press became interested in his life in February 2000 when he died at the age of 84.

While The Guardian commented, “Ivan Hirst. Englishman who made Volkswagen part of the German economic miracle”, the International Herald Tribune celebrated Hirst as the “rescuer of Volkswagen “. The Times described him as the “British soldier who got the Volkswagen Beetle on the road”.

And in the Automotive News he was the “British officer who revived VW”. None of these articles failed to underline the ironic twist of history: the decisive role in the reconstruction of the successful German automobile maker was played by a British officer.

They also focused on a previously little explored aspect of the postwar period: The Allied victory placed hundreds of German factories into Allied trusteeship under the Allied Control Council Law No. 52.

In many cases, such as under the ‘North German Iron and Steel Control’ and the ‘North German Coal Control’, this entailed only general control and planning. In other companies, however, the realisation of interests demanded direct intervention. Given that leading German businessmen had either fled or had been imprisoned, military staff had to take over company management. Numerous plants and factories remained under Allied control for months, indeed sometimes for years. And yet to date little research has been done on either the form of corporate management under the Allies or the biographies of these enterprising military men.

Which professional qualities did these officers have to offer? What tasks did they master and what were their aims? What can be said about their motivations, background and indeed how their lives continued?

20,000 Volkswagen's Ivan Hirst
3.4 The Start of Production under British Control
The British military and government authorities soon realised that much had changed in Wolfsburg. And given that the military government desperately needed cars it wasn’t long before someone had the bright idea of simply doubling the order for 20,000 Volkswagens.


Ivan Hirst represents one of the most interesting examples of management under the Allies. As Senior Resident Officer he was in charge of the Volkswagen Works between 1945 and 1949. While the plant’s chances of survival were regarded as very low in 1945, it had become the biggest automobile maker in Germany on his departure in 1949. Hirst’s biography reveals the influence of structures, policies and personalities on the course of postwar developments in Germany which also had a decisive impact on the history of Volkswagen.

Ivan Hirst Historical Notes Vol 4
Copyright: © 2022 Robert Bentley, Inc.

Here at VWPI we are saddened by the death of Queen Elizabeth II, but we are also reminded of the great inspiration, strength and courage instilled in millions of people by her, through to this day.

Images in this article are published under editorial fair use with original authors acknowledged, for educational purposes and out of respect and in memory to those mentioned.

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