Royal Ordnance Factory Nottingham
R.O.F. Engineering Factory
Factory Number 23
First opened in 1916
First opened as an ROF January 1936
One of a number of
Royal Ordnance Factoriescreated at the start of World War II
Early site history and production: World War I
* 15th July :
Cammell Laird& Co Ltd were asked to build and manage a National Projectile Factory.
* 23rd July : The above firm produced a scheme and preliminary estimates for a factory to produce 2,000 9.2" and 6,000 6" shells per week.
* 19th August : First sod cut.
* 27th May : First 6" shell completed
* 31st May : First 9.2" shell completed
* 15th July : 9.2" shell production had reached its design output capacity of 2000 units per week
* 19th August : End of first year in operation. 23,519 off 6" shell and 17,842 off 9.2" shell produced
* 23rd September : 6" shell production had reached its design output capacity of 6000 units per week.
* March : 9.2" shell output reaching 5000 per week.
* 20th June : Repair plant for 18 pounder guns completed, and an announcement that 6" Mk XIX guns to be produced
* 18th August : Ten repaired 18 pounder
* 1st October : The factory name changed to the National Ordnance factory
* 20th October : Output of 6" shell reached peak at 13,500 per week.
* 29th October : Last 9.2" shell delivered. Total output 210,262.
* 4th December : First four new build 18 pounder guns completed
* May : First pair of tubes for the 6" gun produced
* 11th July : Last 6" shell produced. Total output 685,801.
* 21st September : First 6" gun finished and dispatched.
* November : Competed gun output 11 per week
* Cammell Laird & Co Ltd still occupied the site under the name of National Ordnance Factory.
* The site bought outright by Cammell Laird & Co Ltd. The company built railway wagons through the 1920s. Some of the site used to house Nottingham Corporation buses at the time of changeover to trolley buses.
* The factory was conveyed to the
Metropolitan CammellCarriage, Wagon and Finance Company.
* The above company had gone into liquidation, the new owners becoming the Metro Cammell Carriage and Wagon Company Ltd.
World War II
Conversion to an Engineering ROF
In the late 1930s, war was seen as a possibility, if not likely, and a sizeable rearmament programme began, probably also activated by the concern that a large proportion of the arsenal was becoming obsolescent, if not obsolete.
The factory was bought back by the
War Officein September 1936, the conveyance (dated 7th May) detailing a sum of £94,475 for the purchase.
Considerable effort was expended in turning the ROF Nottingham into a modern gun factory. The first machine tools were installed in January 1937 and an article in 'Machinery' magazine of
19 January 1939describes the last machine tools as installed 'a few weeks ago'
Some idea of the scale of the endeavour can be gauged by Nottingham being listed in the ROF accounts for year ending
31 March 1938as 'under construction'. As of that date, the amount spent on construction and equipment at Nottingham (compare this with the purchase price!) was £1,725,203-19s-11d. A new production facility (the South Shop) was being built at about this time, and roughly 300 people were employed on the reconstruction in 1937. The payroll level had grown to 2,272 people at the end of March 1938, and 3,796 a year later, shortly after the aforementioned 'Machinery' article had described the factory as 'working to capacity'.
World War II was if anything much busier than World War I had been, with the peak employment being said to number 14,000 (a large proportion being women) on two shifts of twelve hours each.
Until the remodelling of the Meadows area around 1975, ROF Nottingham was much less conspicuous than it became (as least from ground level), being situated at the end of a series of Coronation Street type roads full of terraced houses. Apart from Kings Meadow Road, there were parallel streets to the north called Middle Furlong Road, Rupert Street and Newcastle Street, which extended over what became the North Car Park, so that the end houses were very close to the end of main manufacturing unit - North Shop (a gate by the Paint Shop was also in use). It was decided therefore, as a
camouflagemeasure, to paint a series of stripes running east-west across the North Shop roof, in tune with the roads, so that the factory resembled a continuation of the houses when viewed from the air. There appear to be no traces now of this measure, and just how effective it was is uncertain, but it represents one example of the extent to which such matters were taken seriously.
World War II production
Production during World War II could be described as being of variants on two main products plus a number of subsidiary projects:
* The two main products were the 3.7" medium
anti-aircraft gunand the Bofors 40 mm light anti-aircraft gun.
* The 3.7" gun was produced in several variants, but the principal ones were the Mark II and the Mark III. These were in production concurrently from 1936-1945, the difference being that whilst the Mark III mounting had four folding outriggers and detachable wheels for mobile use, the Mark II mounting was simpler and heavier, designed to be concreted into a fixed emplacement to defend ports for example from high level air attack.
Bofors 40 mm gunis probably too well known for much of a description to be necessary, being possibly the most famous light anti-aircraft gun ever produced. Land mobile mountings were made at Nottingham from 1938 onwards, but in fact Nottingham was the main producer of British water-cooled Naval elevating masses and mountings for Bofors guns, the culmination being the STAAG mounting. Known unflatteringly as the antlered beast and more properly as the Stabilised Tachymetric Anti-Aircraft Gun, STAAG was probably the heaviest, costliest and most complicated means ever devised of fitting two Bofors guns to a warship, which whilst technically advanced was not noted for its reliability.
It must be said though that generally both the 3.7" AA gun and the Bofors guns (which were made in second main manufacturing shop - the South Shop) were very successful.
* Other projects included the 2 Pounder Anti-tank gun, an advanced design which was rapidly outclassed before being in service for very long (made at ROF(N) from 1937 to 1939), the 5.5" Howitzer (1940-42) and the 17 pounder tank gun (Sherman 'Firefly' conversions were done at Nottingham).
* A final, minor project - which led to greater things - was the construction at Nottingham of the hull and suspension units for the first prototype A41. This, with its five sisters, saw limited action with the Guards Armoured Division in the closing days of the war, and is better known as the
Centurion tank, later versions being extremely successful, although as will be seen, Nottingham has never really been involved in tank manufacture, although reworks have been performed from time to time.
As would be expected, the period immediately after the war (1946-50) saw little or no armament production and caused the factory to diversify widely, into initially unlikely fields.
Products at this time included tunnelling shields, parts for hosiery machines, structural parts for band-saws and other light wood working machinery, generators, gearboxes for Guy motor-buses, printers guillotines and forging dies for Raleigh pedal cycle cranks.
Autumn 1950 saw the start of another re-armament drive, which became particularly apparent the following year. The "Nottingham Journal" of Wednesday
6 June 1951described Nottingham as the 'second largest factory after Woolwich (presumably meaning engineering factory; Explosive ROFs and Filling Factoriestend to be much greater in area). Also clearance of the site for the Heavy Erection (HE) Shop was reported (this was built within about a year and finished in 1952. Deep hole boring was claimed to be ten times faster than in World War II (the gun in question being the 20 pdr for early Centurions) and the major non-gun activity was the rework of Comet tanks.
The next few years do not seem to have been very busy, but in the late fifties activity picked up on various vehicle and specialist projects, which will be considered here to highlight again the wide variety of the factory's products. It should be borne in mind that at this time manning levels were quite small: there were 517 people employed in October 1956, falling to 408 two years later, whilst a staff chart for March 1959 lists only 84 staff from the Factory Superintendent down to the Assistant Foreman in the Forges.
Products produced through the 1950s and 1960s (roughly in chronological order, but jobs tended to run in parallel and overlap) included the following - plus other projects, such as an underwater retractable mechanism for sonar on warships, and bomb trolleys etc.
* Yellow Fever or Fire Control Equipment AA Mk 7 (c1955-61)
* Aircraft Freight Loader (1958)
* Truck, 1 ton, Armoured 4 x 4 Humber (Armouring?) c1959-60
Centurion TankMk 5 Rework (1959-62?)
* Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile Launcher Units c1959-63?
* Bofors 40L70 (development of the World War II gun, more powerful) c1958-62?
Malkara missilelauncher vehicle c1962
* 10 ton Recovery Vehicle Jib Assembly c1962
* Centurion ARK work c1963
Later projects included the Heavy Dummy Axle (HDA); the Eager Beaver Air Portable Fork Lift Truck (APFLT) from roughly 1969-1973, the Bar Mine Layer; the Light Mobile Digger (LMD) trench digging machine, and the manufacture and assembly of the
FV180 Combat Engineer Tractorfrom 1978 to 1983, although ROF Leedswas also heavily involved in production of this vehicle.
On the large guns side, products had included the
Royal Ordnance L7105 mm tank ordnance, which was for a long time one of the most important products, and the 165 mm demolition gun that fired a very large HESH projectile and was fitted to the FV4003 Centurion Mk 5 AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers). Other guns included the 76 mm L5 and 76 mm L23 for armoured cars, the 105 mm L13 for the Abbot SP artillery, the L16 81mm Mortarfor the Infantry, and to provide an even more tangible link with the present, the 105 mm L119 and L118 Light Gunfor the Artillery. The first delivery of the L118 to the British Army took place in 1974, a variant of the L119 Light Gun - which was type classified in record time by the United States Army as the M119 howitzer- was ordered in 1987.
Privatisation of Royal Ordnance
The sale of
ROF Leedsto Vickers plcand closure of the Royal Small Arms Factory(RSAF), Enfield, both had their effects on the site: RO Leeds, causing a considerable amount of vehicle and vehicle-related work to come to Nottingham; and RSAF Enfield, causing the Small Arms Facility in South Shop to be implemented.
By mid 1987, the South Shop has become disused and was in a semi-derelict condition. The building was remodelled and converted into the Nottingham Small Arms Facility (NSAF). A Small Arms proof and test range was built in what was once an air-raid shelter, and a tube test range installed.
Finally a building was specially constructed to house the MOD Small Arms Museum collection - known as the "Pattern Room". (On closure of the site the Pattern Room collection was transferred to the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds).
ROF Nottingham was finally closed in 2001 and the armaments manufacturing capability transferred to the
BAE Systems Land Systemsplant at Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria.
* (N/A) (1919). "Nottingham: National Projectile Factory 1915-1917; National Ordnance Factory 1917-1919". Produced by: Messrs Cammell, Laird & Co Ltd. Dated January 1919. Printed by: Sir W.C. Leng & Co. Sheffield.
* Foss, Christopher F. "Royal Ordnance Factory Nottingham". In: "Jane's Defence Review", Vol 3, No 1.
* Hay, Ian (1949). "R.O.F - The story of the ROYAL ORDNANCE FACTORIES 1939-48".London:
* (N/A) (1973). "Preservation: Royal Small Arms Pattern Room". In: "
After The Battle", 2, (Pages 42 - 43). ISSN 0306-154-X.
Board of Ordnance
List of Royal Ordnance Factories
* Royal Ordnance Factories
Royal Small Arms Factory
* http://www.rofnottingham.co.uk - History of ROF Nottingham website
* http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/UK-Civil-WarProduction/index.html#contents - HISTORY OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
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