London: Esso Petroleum Company, Limited, September 1951. Illustrated by Roy Coombs.
One of two company histories (see Pastoral on Paper) written by Bates in a style similar to his non-fiction war title, There's Freedom in the Air. Why Bates took on such work at a time when his fiction was hugely popular and lucrative is not clear. The frontispiece states that "this book commemorates the official opening on September 14th, 1951, of the new Esso Refinery at Fawley, Hampshire; and is intended as a tribute to the vision, skill, and energy of all those who helped to plan and build it." Much as Bates praised the heroism and dedication of pilots in his war writings, here he pays tribute to the discipline, enthusiasm, and cooperative spirit (especially between the British and American workers) required to enlarge an oil refinery. After first setting the location of the refinery in language more typical of his nature writing, Bates outlines the history of oil internationally and specifically in England, moves on to the vast project of planning and constructing not only a refinery but housing and services for its workers, and finally details several important management decisions that contributed to the speedy completion of the project. Written long before any economic and environmental concerns regarding dependence on oil, Bates unapologetically lauds the multi-million-pound effort to increase British production of refined oil products tenfold in a matter of several years; in fact, in a closing that returns to the landscape at Fawley, he notes thousands of trees planted by Esso to screen the refinery on the landward side, and speculates that it will in most ways be "leaving a traditional existence undisturbed."