Site of wartime diamond factory, Colwyn Bay
During the Second World War, diamonds were split, sawn, shaped and polished here by a company called Frisch and Wins, to help the war effort.
Historically Antwerp and Amsterdam were the centres for cutting and polishing diamonds, while London was the hub for selling them. As the threat of German invasion grew in the 1930s, some moved from the Low Countries to southern England, but were relocated from there to North Wales to escape wartime air raids. Pictured right is a man splitting diamonds in Britain, c.1920. It's no longer known at which factory the photo was taken.
The factory, established by Max Frisch and Gerrit Wins, factory was on the top floor of a hardware shop called Bevans, where there’s now a car park. Mr Biallostersky, a Dutchman, was responsible for the 18 machine operators. They manufactured diamonds to use in tools for armaments. Some tools were produced locally by Dua and Stoeltjes, Belgian refugees.
Diamonds were also a currency, exported to America as part-payment for armaments and other imports under the lend-lease agreement. Equipment for sawing diamonds was made by Slamco in New York. The first wartime delivery to Britain was destroyed in an air raid on Liverpool.
There were also diamond-cutting factories in Bangor with 60 employees. The diamond industry was important enough to make it a reserved occupation (exempting skilled workers from military service). Later the Frisch and Wins factory was taken over by JK Smit, which set up another diamond tool factory in nearby Rhos-on-Sea. This manufactured diamond tools and continued operating into the 1950s.
Eddy De Klerk, one of the Belgian diamond workers at Frisch and Wins, invented a machine to convert saltwater to fresh. That wasn’t a new idea but his device was uniquely portable, which meant it could be used in a ship’s lifeboat to sustain sailors as they awaited rescue. The design was said to have been given to the Royal Navy.
Hans Wins, son of the founder of the factory, visited Colwyn Bay in 2010. He provided much of the information above to local historian Cindy Lowe, author of Colwyn Bay Accredited: The Wartime Experience. The photo, courtesy of Mrs G Roberts, shows staff from the wartime diamond factory relaxing on Colwyn Bay pier.
FOOTNOTES: Personal recollections
With thanks to Cindy Lowe and Hans Wins
Postcode: LL29 8LA