A biography of the late Major Ivan Hirst, the English army officer credited with reviving the Volkswagen factory after the Second World War, is to be launched on Friday (26 March) at a ceremony to be held at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Officers from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) – of which Major Hirst was a member – as well as representatives from Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Group UK will attend the ceremony, along with Ralf Richter, author of the book, members of the press and Dorothy Holdsworth, the closest surviving relative to Major Hirst.
Connections between Volkswagen and REME have been strong since 1945, when Major Hirst was posted to the derelict Volkswagen works in Wolfsburg. In difficult conditions, and against the predictions of prominent members of the British motor industry, Hirst was successful, not only in re-starting production of the Volkswagen Beetle, but in placing Volkswagen on a commercial footing for the first time as a motor vehicle manufacturer. He once said: ‘Nobody gave me a real brief – I was just told to go there and do something.’
The Ivan Hirst biography details the Major’s post-war activities, the development of Volkswagen, and what happened to him after the war. The book – the fourth volume in a series of Historical Notes published by Volkswagen AG – has been written by Ralf Richter. In 2000, shortly after Major Hirst’s death, he was the first student to be awarded the Ivan-Hirst-Prize by the Volkswagen AG Corporate Archive department at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Richter is a historian and lecturer at the Institute for Economic and Social History at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen, Germany.
Also at the ceremony on Friday, Peter Wyhinny, Director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles UK, will hand over three new Volkswagen Transporter kombis to Brigadier Tetlow, Director of REME. These vehicles, half people-carrier and half load-carrier, will be used by REME’s recruiting teams, who travel the country visiting careers conventions, schools, air shows and similar events to promote careers within the corps. These vehicles continue an agreement that began when the first fleet was handed over in October 2001.
Commenting on the relationship, Wyhinny, said: ‘We are delighted to reinforce these links with REME, and to remain their recognised Partners in Engineering. We hope this relationship will continue for many years to come.’
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