ACME Whistles Official News

World War I And The Whistle

by AcmeWhistles, November 2018

Whistles have played a vital role on the battlefield throughout ACME’s 149-year history.

Many commands, including the famous ‘over the top‘ signal, were issued by whistles made at our factory in the Midlands and they soon became the official government-issue infantry whistle. Shouting was lost against the dreadful and overwhelming hurricane of sound that was guns firing, bombs and shells screaming earthwards and exploding. The noise was felt as well as heard as each side sought to not just damage but demoralise the other.

The whistle with its distinctive, discordant note spoke through the background noise as the voice of authority. To the chaos and terror, it brought order.

Carrying On Against All Odds

So important to the war effort was this small item that the British government seized control of the factory to ensure that whistle production was kept going. When bombs hit the ACME factory (falling from zeppelins whose real target was probably the nearby Kynoch munitions works) instructions were to repair the damage in 4 days! This required a third of the factory being rebuilt. There was no chance of such works taking 4 days; this would usually have been months of effort----but not in war time. Resources were marshalled, and production was back up and running, in under a week.

But worse was to come; demand for ACME's infantry whistles was greater than capacity, and combined with a nationwide shortage of brass this succeeded in stopping production more effectively than any ambitious bomb had managed.

Something special was required to solve this problem. Using its telegraphic address, “Ingenuity Birmingham”, ACME wired the Government asking if it could use its influence to divert tin plate and steel heading for Cadbury’s chocolate factory in the Bourneville area of Birmingham to whistle production. ’Ingenuity’ it was: biscuit tins were shipped 6 miles across the city to be pressed out into whistle parts and the machinery rolled again. Today, these whistles still turn up at auctions and car boot sales, many with the tell-tale signs of Cadbury logos and images still visible if faded and partly worn away.

Remembering Those To Whom We Owe So Much

In a post-war world, it has become a respected tradition around the globe to hold a minute’s silence before sports matches taking place on Armistice Day. It is an ACME whistle which usually has the honour of signalling the end of this moment of quiet reflection and prayer. To celebrate this long tradition of military partnership and to support the Royal British Legion we have created a limited edition range of Peace Whistles.