How Engineering Saved the Empire
The Story of
The Austin Motor Company's
Activity during The Great War.


When Germany, drunk with the lust of power, decided upon challenging the world to a contest of strength, she had made many calculations. The blow was due to no sudden anger or crise des nerfs. It had been premeditated for many years, and premeditated by a nation which, both in war and peace, in science and in commerce, is notable chiefly for its extraordinarily painstaking accuracy in matters of detail and its tireless industry in the preliminary preparation for every task undertaken. The scenes of the great war had been rehearsed and re-enacted in dumb show a thousand times before the real struggle began.

Mimic contests, war games, reviews and giant field-days had familiarised the war lords of the Kaiser with every aspect of the problem they had to solve. The German Army was everlastingly marching past its rulers. The vast forces organised finally hypnotised the clearest intellects of the Teutonic world, and prepared them for the one gigantic mistake which neutralised all the efforts of half. " Whom the gods destroy they first make .mad." There was one uncertain and uncontrollable factor in the situation, which in their madness Ludendorff and his associates forgot, and that was the reaction of the rest of the world, to the impact of the prodigious force which they regard as invincible when once that force was launched against the citadel of human freedom. Nothing visible on the surface of this planet could resist, so they thought, the onslaught of the military machine which the Central Powers had created. The resistance, in fact, came front something invisible and as yet unborn. It was the unexpected and unimaginable riposte of a world arming itself in hot haste. Prodigies of preparation were met by prodigies of extemporaneous effort, and among the latter the exploits of I British engineering take a foremost place.

The story of the response of the Austin Motor Company to the demands of War is only one of the episode's of this titanic encounter, but it is so typical and characteristic of this coefficient of resistance that it will serve to show what has happened throughout the massive structure of the British community, and to some extent throughout the whole of the freedom-loving and democratic portion of the world. It should, therefore, have its place in history, for history, as Mr. Frederic Harrison once observed, should not merely relate anecdotes, but also illustrate a philosophy.

In 1914 the Austin Motor Company found itself, like many other firms, confronted with new problems, which included not merely those unusual to the motor industry, but problems new to the engineering world generally. No precedents were available. They had well-equipped motor works occupying about 2800 hands, and were in the act of calmly preparing for the November Motor Show with their new models.

Suddenly, motoring-or what used to be called pleasure motoring-receded into the remote background. War contracts became the order of the day. There was an immediate and insistent demand for cars, lorries, aeroplanes, aero engines, guns, shells and munitions generally on a colossal scale. The total record of deliveries of munitions and other materials of war by the Austin Motor Company alone since 1914 is staggering in its immensity. A tabulated statement is sufficient to indicate this, but the story of how this monumental task was accomplished, within the limits of time prescribed by the stern necessities of the situation, is full of human interest.

MUNITIONS OF WAR

Manufactured by the Austin Motor Company and delivered to H.M. Government and Allied Governments since October, 1914

SHELLS :


18-pounders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6,500,000
15-pounders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100,000
13-pounders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25,000
9.2"shells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350,00
8" shells . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 980,000
210 mms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60,000

GUNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 650
AEROPLANES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,000
NIGHT TRACERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .506,399
Percussions Tubes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 682,808
BURSTER CONTAINERS . . . . . . . . . . 167,791
SHRAPNEL HEADS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47,768

LORRIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,000
ARMOURED CARS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 480
AMBULANCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .148
TOURING CARS, LIGHT VANS, ETC . . . . . . . . . . 750
SWITCH BOARDS AND RESISTANCES . . . . . . 4,122
ELECTRIC GENERATING SETS . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,762
PUMPING EQUIPMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . 40
AEROPLANE ENGINES (Various Kinds) . . . . . . . 2,500
ELECTRIC MOTORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . 25
WORKSHOP TRAILING WAGONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
SEARCHLIGHT SETS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
CABLE DRUMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
LIMBER WAGONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,603
LEWIS GUN CARTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,000
DRAUGHT POLES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,405
TRACK TROUGHS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34


Also large quantities of spare parts for lorries, aeroplanes, etc. Space will not permit of our giving a complete account of these varied activities, but the following notes on some of the more important war productions of this factory are of special interest.

The Nimble "Nine Point Two"
The remarkable production achieved in this, the first of the larger Austin-made shells, was due to a series of improvements on established practice, each of them designed to facilitate the work. Not the least of these consisted of the introduction of pneumatic valves attached to the tongs with which the men handle the red-hot billets at the forge. Thus one man was able to do what previously occupied two—namely, the work involved in the transit of the billet from the furnace to the forge and from the forge to the trolley. In the machining department, in addition to the great advantage secured by the patent Austin lathe, which turns and bores the shells simultaneously, assisted by ingeniously devised loading bars, there were machines for screwing up adaptors, pneumatic riveters for facing and riveting the adaptor into the shell, and new and improved methods of turning the copper bands.
Starting in April, 1916, this first big shell shop of the Austin works achieved in two months' time their estimated output of 2000 shells per week, and at the end of March, 1917, when their task was almost done, the shop was turning out shells at the rate of 5000 per week.
The experience gained in the manufacture of this particular shell was of invaluable help in regard to the other sizes thereafter demanded by the Government—the " eight-inch " and
subsequently the " eighteen-pounders."

THE MAKING OF EIGHT-INCH SHELLS

Women's Work

The Germans miscalculated the world's resistance, but they were not alone in their miscalculation. It in pre-war days any ordinary individual had been introduced to an eight-inch shell and had been informed that this weapon of warfare would be turned out in thousands by girl labour lie would have scoffed at the notion.

Shells-1914