My books on manufacturing

My books on manufacturing
My books on manufacturing history

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Manufacturing for war - The First World War

Competition in manufacturing perhaps led to more marked and destructive competition in war. Whether we like it or not, war was a catalyst to accelerate manufacturing progress. The aeroplane offers the example of incremental progress during the first war to the great leap-frog to jet power in the second. All this carried with it development in electronics and in communication as telephone and telegraph made way for wireless and radar. Chemistry took a major boost from the exploitation of the by-product of oil refining as oil consumption grew exponentially. Between the wars in Britain the old industries struggled as other nations, which had come later into the field, took advantage of new ideas. In a sense, war left the victor weaker and the vanquished strong and this underlies the course of British manufacturing ever since. British manufacturing rose to the challenge of exporting to balance the nation’s books. In 1951, a brave nation put on a brave and confident face in presenting the Festival of Britain to a nation in need of cheer.

Looking first at WW1,

Essentially the whole country put its shoulder to the war effort. Women worked in factories which had been strictly male preserves. Shipbuilding was busy. The big armament companies Armstrong, Vickers, Cammell Laird and John Brown honed their skills at truly heavy engineering of guns. Smaller engineering companies made tanks. On the lighter side, aircraft manufacturers leapfrogged each other as one technical improvement succeeded another. Motor companies grew, as they manufactured military trucks and cars, indeed anything from metal. Pharmaceutical companies shook off the country’s dependence on German manufacturers. Electrical companies developed further telephone and wireless. The other side of the coin was that the country’s coffers emptied, as it paid for all it had been supplied by the USA. The USA took over as world manufacturing’s top dog. I wrote about army supply in WW1 in my book Ordnance.

You can read extracts from the chapter on WW1 from my book How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World but following this link.

The Chilwell shell filling factory after the disastrous explosion

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