Last Update: 3rd August 2019

This is the "MPRD" Projects page for the Horspath Archaeological Group.

Metal Products Recovery Depot (MPRD) Project

[Posted 11th July 2019]

The MPRD (Metal Products Recovery Depot) [also called "Metal & Produce Recovery Depot"] was a huge WW2 aircraft dump that stretched from the Garsington Road almost to Horspath. It contained over eight miles of trackways between row after row of salvaged allied aircraft that had crashed in southern England; mostly RAF and USAAF, but later in the war many German aircraft as well. It employed many hundreds of personnel; some local, but mainly labourers from elsewhere in the country, including many Irishmen.

The following image, from the USAAF taken April 1944, shows the MPRD from the air with Horspath on the left.


USAAF image from April 1944

A similar image, from the Morris Motors archive, shows the MPRD from the air (undated). The railway line can be seen at the top of the dump. The "thing" that appears to be a bomb crater at the bottom left is probably a photographic defect, there is no record of bombs being dropped on the MPRD.

MPRD Vertical

MPRD from Morris Motors archive

The dump was huge and contained many different types of aircraft. The next image shows a small portion of the dump with a German aircraft waiting to be dismembered.

German Aircraft

German aircraft in dump

The work in breaking up the aircraft was labour intensive as can be seen from the following image of men dismantling an aircraft wing.

Dismantling aircraft wing

Dismantling an aircraft wing

The objective of the MPRD was to recover as much of the valuable aircraft-grade aluminium as possible, and also to recycle the truly vast amounts of technical equipment from the downed aircraft. Parts recovered from the dump were also used for repairing damaged aircraft.

The following is extracted from: "WW2 People's War" An archive of World War Two memories.

Memories of the Home Front in Oxford by Laura Garcia

At MPRD the wrecked aircraft were piled alongside alleyways over a vast area, SE of the Cowley railway line. Usable items and materials were taken from them. The remaining wreckage was then cut up in the main workshops, NW of the railway. Aluminium for the manufacture of new aircraft was in very short supply. Hence everything that was made predominantly of aluminium alloys went to the foundry, where it was fed by hand into round pots (later in the war replaced by much bigger furnaces). The molten aluminium was then ladled into moulds to form ingots about the size of two building bricks.
The purity of the recovered aluminium was of crucial importance. Hence, in a small workshop each ingot was sampled by drilling and some of the swarf placed in a numbered paper bag. This then went to the laboratory which was in a brick building adjacent to the foundry.
MPRD, including the laboratory, continued in existence after the war to complete disposal of the accumulated wreckage.

A huge amount of aluminium was recovered from the crashed aircraft, melted down, and poured into moulds. The image below shows molten aluminium being poured into moulds and the ingots were stored outside in large stacks.

MPRD Pouring Aluminium

Pouring Aluminium into moulds

The following image shows some of the stacks of aluminium ingots waiting to be sent out to factories.

MPRD Aluminium Stacks

Aluminium Stacks

It's reckoned that the MPRD salvaged enough aluminium and technical equipment to create over five thousand new aircraft during the war; a truly major contribution to survival of this country, and one we believe deserves wider recognition.

Our project, then, is aimed at documenting the work of the Depot during and after the war and the many local people involved. We will also illustrate the salvage and recycling operations among the towering heaps of crashed aircraft.