Coventry Ordnance Works

Coventry Ordnance Works

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Coventry Ordnance Works was a British manufacturer of heavy guns, particularly naval artillery
Naval artillery
Naval artillery, or naval riflery, is artillery mounted on a warship for use in naval warfare. Naval artillery has historically been used to engage either other ships, or targets on land; in the latter role it is currently termed naval gunfire fire support...

. The firm was based in the English city of Coventry
Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

.

History


The company was set up in 1905 by a consortium of British shipbuilding firms John Brown
John Brown & Company
John Brown and Company of Clydebank was a pre-eminent Scottish marine engineering and shipbuilding firm, responsible for building many notable and world-famous ships, such as the , the , the , the , the , and the...

, Yarrow
Yarrow Shipbuilders
Yarrow Limited , often styled as simply Yarrows, was a major shipbuilding firm based in the Scotstoun district of Glasgow on the River Clyde...

, Cammell Laird
Cammell Laird
Cammell Laird, one of the most famous names in British shipbuilding during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, came about following the merger of Laird, Son & Co. of Birkenhead and Johnson Cammell & Co. of Sheffield at the turn of the twentieth century.- Founding of the business :The Company...

 and Fairfield
Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company
The Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Limited was a British shipbuilding company in the Govan area on the Clyde in Glasgow. Fairfields, as it is often known, was a major warship builder, turning out many vessels for the Royal Navy and other navies through the First World War and the...

 with the encouragement of the British government, which wanted a third major arms consortium to compete with the duopoly
Duopoly
A true duopoly is a specific type of oligopoly where only two producers exist in one market. In reality, this definition is generally used where only two firms have dominant control over a market...

 of Vickers
Vickers
Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999.-Early history:Vickers was formed in Sheffield as a steel foundry by the miller Edward Vickers and his father-in-law George Naylor in 1828. Naylor was a partner in the foundry Naylor &...

 and Armstrong-Whitworth, in order to drive down prices.

Initially H.H. Mulliner was the managing director, but after a series of altercations with the Admiralty he was replaced by a retired admiral Sir Reginald Bacon
Reginald Bacon
Admiral Sir Reginald Hugh Spencer Bacon, KCB, KCVO, DSO was an officer in the Royal Navy noted for his technical abilities who was described by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jacky Fisher, as the man "acknowledged to be the cleverest officer in the Navy".-Family:Reginald was born at Wiggonholt in...

. The company also opened a factory in Scotstoun
Scotstoun
Scotstoun is a historic district of Glasgow, Scotland, west of Glasgow City Centre. It is bounded by Yoker and Knightswood to the west, Victoria Park, Broomhill and Whiteinch to the east, Jordanhill to the north and the River Clyde to the south...

, Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 in 1910, which made heavy gun mountings. The C.O.W. 37mm gun
COW 37 mm gun
The COW 37 mm gun was a British automatic cannon that was developed as a heavy-calibre aircraft weapon.It was trialled in several installations and specified for the Westland C.O.W. Gun Fighter...

 was the first modern autocannon
Autocannon
An autocannon or automatic cannon is a rapid-fire projectile weapon firing a shell as opposed to the bullet fired by a machine gun. Autocannons often have a larger caliber than a machine gun . Usually, autocannons are smaller than a field gun or other artillery, and are mechanically loaded for a...

 developed in 1917. The firm also designed the 5.5 inch Naval gun, the highly successful QF 4.5 inch Howitzer
QF 4.5 inch Howitzer
The Ordnance QF 4.5 inch Howitzer was the standard British Empire field howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5 inch Howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in...

, and a 15 inch siege howitzer
BL 15 inch Howitzer
The Ordnance BL 15 inch howitzer was developed by the Coventry Ordnance Works late in 1914 in response to the success of its design of the 9.2 inch siege howitzer.-History and use:...

 for the British Army.

The firm struggled in the recession after the end of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 which affected Britain's arms industry and closed in 1925.

Harland and Wolff
Harland and Wolff
Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries is a Northern Irish heavy industrial company, specialising in shipbuilding and offshore construction, located in Belfast, Northern Ireland....

, who took over the Scotstoun, Glasgow, works from COW in 1920, converted it for diesel engine manufacture. Little investment was made and the firm had to seek civil engineering contracts away from shipbuilding in order to minimise losses. In 1927 the factory was put on a care and maintenance basis.

The beginning of a national rearmament programme in 1936 prompted the re-commissioning of the works to make gun mountings. After the war, they continued to build naval guns into the late 1960s, building the "standard" 4.5" turrets for the County class destroyer
County class destroyer
The County class was a class of guided missile destroyers, the first such vessels built by the Royal Navy. Designed specifically around the Sea Slug anti-aircraft missile system, the primary role of these ships was area air-defence around the aircraft carrier task force in the nuclear-war...

s and other classes. Barrels were brought in from Vickers-Armstrongs but in earlier times they were made locally at Beardmores
William Beardmore and Company
William Beardmore and Company was a Scottish engineering and shipbuilding conglomerate based in Glasgow and the surrounding Clydeside area. It was active between about 1890 and 1930 and at its peak employed about 40,000 people...

 in Parkhead. Work was also switched to the manufacture of hydro-electric plant for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board
North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board
The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board was founded to design, construct and manage hydroelectricity projects in the Highlands of Scotland...

, and then to steel presses for the motor industry, and compressors.

In 1969 the works was sold to Albion Motors
Albion Motors
Albion Automotive of Scotstoun, Glasgow is a former Scottish automobile and commercial vehicle manufacturer, currently involved in the manufacture and supply of Automotive component systems....

, whose main factory had been situated on the opposite side of South Street.
This factory had some of the largest Machine tool
Machine tool
A machine tool is a machine, typically powered other than by human muscle , used to make manufactured parts in various ways that include cutting or certain other kinds of deformation...

s in the UK. One, a vertical boring mill had a turntable 36' in diameter, used for turning the turret gear rings. The building had 3 tiers of overhead cranes and could together lift several hundred tons. The building still continues to manufacture automotive parts under the ownership of Albion, now a subsidiary of American Axle
American Axle
American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. , headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, is a manufacturer of automobile driveline and drivetrain components and systems.-History:...

.