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At height of war effort, 1,600 people — half women — toiled at Otaco

The West Street plant pivoted from making farm implements to machining parts for planes needed by the Allies in the Second World War

Postcard Memories is a weekly series of historic postcard views and photos submitted by Marcel Rousseau.

Some were previously published by the Orillia Museum of Art and History and in the book Postcard Memories Orillia.

Before the Second World War, Otaco Limited was known far and wide as a manufacturer of farm implements, mining and haulage equipment.   

In the early 1940s, Otaco was enlisted into the wartime effort, machining small parts for training planes made by de Havilland Aircraft in Downsview, Ontario. 

The West Street South plant had the skills and machinery and soon landed contracts to make parts for the Mosquito Bomber and Fighters used by the Canadian and Allied Air Forces.  

Exhaust manifolds, engine bearing assemblies, nose cones, canopy tops, bomb bay doors and the landing gear units shown here were made by the hundreds.

At the height of the war effort, there were 1,600 workers at the Otaco plant – more than half of them women – working around the clock over three shifts.  

De Havilland would send up a completed Mosquito once in a while to fly over the West Street plant to drum up excitement for war bonds.

Up to 1945, more than 1,000 Mosquitos were built by de Havilland Canada at the Downsview Airfield, thanks in part to the contribution made by the men and women of Orillia.



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