Visit to AJ Wells & Sons: A Glimpse into the Craftsmanship Behind CWGC Signage

By Gary Newman – Vectis Branch Secretary

Pictured: Signage from the production line and Project Manager, Andrew Thearle, with Vectis Branch Secretary & CWGC Volunteer, Gary.

Pictured: Signage from the production line and Project Manager, Andrew Thearle, with Vectis Branch Secretary & CWGC Volunteer, Gary.

On Tuesday the 14th May, I visited the factory of signage makers AJ Wells & Sons, close to my home in Newport on the Isle of Wight. AJ Wells are responsible for the manufacture of the iconic Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) signage at War Cemeteries all over the globe. They are a family run British engineering company, established in 1972, that specialises in the manufacture & installation of signage, cladding & other vitreous enamel products.

Their portfolio includes such names as Crossrail, Sony PlayStation, The Royal Academy of Arts, Harrods, The Victoria & Albert Museum, The London Underground, & The Imperial War Museum, to name just a few.

The visit was arranged by Paige Outlaw at Customer Services, & on the day I met up with Paige & Andrew Thearle, the Project Manager. Andrew was pleased to give up his time to take me through the whole production process, from receiving the raw materials, fabrication, preparing the steel for enamelling, the enamelling process & screen printing before the final firing at over 700°C.

During the tour, I was shown recently completed signage for the Cassino War Cemetery & Memorial, Ranville War Cemetery & the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery all completed in English & the language of the host nation.

A thoroughly fascinating tour which emphasised their skill, professionalism, attention to detail and pride in helping to tell the stories of our cemeteries & the 1.7 million casualties who we commemorate throughout the world.

My thanks go to Paige and Andrew for making the visit possible.