ARMSTRONG WHITWORTH & Sir W.G. ARMSTRONG WHITWORTH & COMPANY
When hydraulics and crane engineer William George Armstrong amalgamated with shipbuilder Charles Mitchell in 1882, they formed The Armstrong Mitchell & Company, based on a 1-mile stretch of the River Tyne at Elswick, Newcastle.
5 years later they merged again, this time with The Joseph Whitworth Company and expanded into the manufacture of cars and trucks as Armstrong Whitworth. Whitworth had made their name through the ‘British Standard Whitworth Thread’ which became the accepted standard for bolts, nuts and screws throughout the UK engineering industry.
With the war looming, they created the ‘Arial Department’ in 1913 at Dukes Moor, Gosforth where they set about producing 250 R.A.F. (Royal Aircraft Factory) BE.2c's as part of a governement order. The Government then asked them to recruit Dutch Engineer Frederick Koolhoven (who had formerly been Chief Designer at British Deperdussin) and his first airraft was the F.K 1 which flew in September 1914. Despite a promising start the F.K 1 was never produced. Virtually all of AW's productions during the war were ‘F.K’ designs, by far the most successful of which was the F.K 8 ‘Big Ack’ and some 1,650 examples were produced at Gosforth.
After Koolhoven left the company in 1917, and following a severe fall off in orders at the end of the war, it was decided to close the Aerial Department in October 1919.
A year earlier however, Armstrong Whitworth had been approached by engine manufacturer John Siddeley of Siddeley-Deasy about a possible link between the two concerns. In 1920 Armstrong Whitworth acquired Siddeley Deasy and created The Armstrong Whitworth Development Company. The new consortium comprised Armstrong Siddeley and Sir W.G. Armstong Whitworth Aircraft Company which was based initially at the Siddeley Deasy factory at Parkside, near Coventry (later occupied by Rolls-Royce Aero Division).
Later, and whilst the Design Office remained at Parkside, the company acquired the former RAF airfield at Whitley in 1923 and it was here that it would centre its major aircraft manufacturing activities.
The huge economic downturn at the Newcastle Factory after the end of the war (when the government announced that they saw no future for military tanks and armoured vehicle) the Aviation Division was largely supporting the whole group and so John Siddeley purchased the Aircraft Engine Division himself in 1926. Despite the split at the top both the aircraft and engine concerns unusually continued to trade under their original names. Siddeley retained his shareholding and seat on the board despite concentrating on the aero-engine and motor car business.
The complexity of the company genealogy deepens further when Armstrong Whitworth Development Company was renamed The Armstrong Siddeley Development Company in 1927. In that same year The Vickers Group then acquired the remaining shipbuilding and military vehicle concerns of Armstrong Whitworth at Elswick and formed Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd (renamed with an 's' to differentiate the companies).
It should be noted that whilst at this point Vickers-Armstrongs had little involvement in aircraft, they did become Vickers-Armstongs (Aircraft) Limited when they were almalgamated with Vickers (Aviation) Limited and the Supermarine Aviation Works in 1938.
The remaining aircraft activities of The Armstrong Siddeley Development Company were finally acquired by AV Roe & Company Ltd in 1928 although yet again they continued to trade under the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft banner.
Following John Siddeley’s retirement from the board in 1935 however, Hawker Aircraft Limited bought all of his shares in the Development Company and thus took a controlling interest in all their aviation activities. They formed The Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company Limited although again they continued manufacturing and marketing under the Armstrong Whitworth title.
The Whitley factory was joined by the addition of new facilities at both Baginton and Bittleswell airfields in the 1950’s for the production of small jet aircraft such as the Hawker Hunter, Hawker Sea Hawk and the Gloster Meteor for the RAF.
Gloster Aircraft Company were also to join the group in 1961 (as Whitworth Gloster Aircraft) although sadly just 2 years later all of the famous names that have been part of the rich history of Armstrong Whitworth simply disappeared under the all new Hawker Siddeley banner. After 46 years the last true Armstrong Whitworth aircraft to bear the AW designation was renamed the Hawker Siddeley Argosy.
|Sir W.G. Armstrong, Whitworth Limited|
|1919||Sir W.G. Armstrong, Whitworth Aircraft Company Limited|
|1927||Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Limited|
|1935||Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company Limited|
|1961||Gloster-Whitworth Aircraft Limited|
|1963||Hawker Siddeley Aviation|
|1914||F.K.1 - Sissit||1926||Ape|
|1915||F.K.3 - Little Ack||1926||Argosy|
|1916||F.K.8 - Big Ack||1930||AW16|
|1917||F.K.10 - Quadriplane||1932||AW15 Atalanta|
|1917||R25r - Airship||1934||AW19|
|1918||R29 – Airship||1935||AW35 Scimitar|
|1919||R33 – Airship||1940||AW41 Albemarle|
|1923||Wolf||1959||AW650 / AW660 Argosy|