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British Army Celebrates Its Volkswagen History - Web Exclusive

'The Major and the Beetle' exhibition will be celebrated with a historic Volkswagen car show.

Aug 12, 2010

The unveiling of a new exhibition called the 'The Major and the Beetle' will be celebrated with a historic Volkswagen car show. The event is to be dedicated to the memory of Major Ivan Hirst, REME. The British Army's Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) has a long history with Volkswagen, dating back to the end of the Second World War when the intervention of a young British Army officer changed the future of the German company.

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Sent by the Control Commission to 'sit on' the bombed remains of the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg in August 1945, the 29 year-old Major Ivan Hirst REME and his team decided to restart production instead.

Major Hirst then secured an order for 20,000 Beetles from the Military Government; yet meeting this order would take all the management and engineering skill he had.

Post-war Wolfsburg suffered shortages of food, skilled workers, housing and work materials. Major Hirst's engineering and management skills together with his people skills, his open-door policy and his will to succeed, turned the Volkswagen Factory around and ensured its survival.

Judy Booth is Senior Curator at the REME Museum of Technology located in the Arborfield Garrison, Reading, Berkshire in England said: "Without Major Hirst REME, there may have been no Volkswagen as we know it today. Ivan Hirst was a hero in his own quiet, unassuming way; a man who not only saved a fledgling car company but who's humanity found a path through the problems left behind by the war. This exhibition recognizes him and his work."

Part of the exhibition is a video display and a unique Beetle couch. Created from half a Beetle, it incorporates a seat and built-in audio facility so visitors can simultaneously sit in a piece of history and learn about it.

The opening of the new exhibition will be celebrated with 'The Ivan Hirst Memorial Beetle Meet' on Sunday 26 September at 11:00 at the REME Museum, Arborfield Garrison, Reading, Berkshire. If you have a historic Beetle and would like to attend, go to for more details and to register your interest.



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