Trading continues at Oxford Street amidst the rubble

Trading at Oxford Street after the bomb damage
The Equipment of a Division army exhibition, 1943

Down, but not out

Just three weeks after the bombing, the partly damaged East House was reopened for business. Part of the West House was soon requisitioned for Government offices, but somehow, trade continued. Meanwhile, the SPS stores were earning their keep, enabling the Partnership to keep its trade almost up to the pre-war level. Without them, the Partnership’s future would undoubtedly have been in jeopardy.

The ‘Equipment of a Division’ exhibition

The wreck of John Lewis would remain just that until a temporary shop was erected on the site in the early 1950’s. However, in the summer of 1943, the site was effectively utilised for a large army exhibition entitled The Equipment of a Division. Photo’s of the exhibition were donated by to the Partnership Archives by one Mrs K Cadamy, a regular shopper at Bonds, Norwich.

Materials and vehicles of war

Mrs Cadamy was a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service team which helped to staff the exhibition. The purpose of the display was to show the public exactly what had to be produced and supplied, both to the individual soldier and to his fighting unit. Over 23,500 seperate items were displayed, ranging from tanks to shoelaces, and overall, the exhibition occupied over four acres of the selling space of John Lewis.

Perfect patch

The opening ceromony for the exhibition was performed on the 8th June 1943 by the Quartermaster General. In response, the Mayor of Marylebone declared the John Lewis site a suitable one indeed, stating

for what could be better than this war-scarred site to display the tools with which we shall finished the job!

Running for two months, the exhibition was an immense success. It continued John Lewis’ long tradition of service to the community, and enabled everyone connected to the department store to remain involved in the war effort.

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