BAE Systems

On the 75th anniversary of VE Day we remember and give thanks to those who risked their lives serving their country and for the sacrifice made by so many during the war.

 

BAE Systems and our predecessor companies have a long history of supporting our armed forces stretching back to the Second World War and beyond.  Today, our commitment is cemented by the Armed Forces Covenant which we signed in 2013 and our long term support of a number of charities helping those who serve, have served and their families. Then and now, we are proud to work side by side with the men and women who keep us safe.

 
 
 

Today, our commitment is cemented by the Armed Forces Covenant which we signed in 2013 and our long term support of a number of charities  helping those who serve, have served and their families. 

 
 

 

 

How our predecessor companies supported the Second World War

 

 

The war effort in the UK was spread across many of our forerunner companies and sites. Damage caused by attacks on key production facilities such as Weybridge, Filton and Hatfield had led to a system of shadow factories and purpose-built centres like Castle Bromwich which produced hundreds of Lancaster bombers and thousands of Spitfires. Here are examples of what some of those sites were doing at the time:

The war effort in the UK was spread across many of our forerunner companies and sites. Damage caused by attacks on key production facilities such as Weybridge, Filton and Hatfield had led to a system of shadow factories and purpose-built centres like Castle Bromwich which produced hundreds of Lancaster bombers and thousands of Spitfires. Here are examples of what some of those sites were doing at the time:
 

Preston and Samlesbury

 
During the Second World War, the UK Government asked The English Electric Co. (a predecessor to BAE Systems, which had major production facilities based in Preston, Lancashire) to support its plan to increase aircraft production. Up until this time, the company had little experience of aircraft manufacture except for a brief flirtation with flying boats during the First World War.  Their core business was manufacturing electric locomotives and trams, but they took up the challenge to produce around 3,000 Hampden and Halifax aircraft.
 
As aircraft production was ramping up and new orders came in, facilities were extended.  A new airfield at Samlesbury was constructed and the “West” works at Strand Road in Preston were refitted.  Premises all over Preston and surrounding towns were requisitioned to be used as ‘satellite’ factories and a number of other local buildings, including Preston Prison, were also used for storage purposes. But that wasn’t all that changed…
 
Before the outbreak of the Second World War, The English Electric Co. employed only 150 women, all believed to be in office roles. However, by 1942, following the introduction of the Essential Work Order (making it compulsory for women aged 18 to 60 to register for war work) and the National Service Act (making the conscription of women legal), this increased to 5,500 women and their roles were manufacturing and assembly.
 
During 1944, production remained at high levels. However, already looking to the future after the conflict, the English Electric directors took the decision to continue using their expanded facilities at Preston and Samlesbury for manufacturing aircraft.
 
With the end of the war in Europe and the declaration of VE Day now only a matter of time, the Government had started to issue orders to run down production of Halifax aircraft.  The company was fortunate that its high quality work had gained it an order for 120 of the new De Havilland Vampire jet aircraft. This was to prove a lifeline for English Electric, as it would go on to build 1,369 Vampires.  

The Vampire gave English Electric not only work to keep the factories filled, but valuable experience in building and flight testing the new jet aircraft, ready for the company’s debut of its Canberra aircraft.  
 

Glascoed

 
In March 2020, our munitions production site at Glascoed was 80 years old.  Here’s some facts about the site and its role in the Second World War.
 
Products produced in the 1940’s include various types of aircraft bombs, naval ammunition from 3” to 15” calibre, torpedo warheads, depth charges, 25 pounders, 2 pounders and 40 mm shells. 
 
Glascoed was responsible for filling the highball bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis intended for use against the Tirpitz although these were never used.
 
During the war, all employees based at the Glascoed site were given a cloth patch bearing the crossed bombs logo of the Glascoed site predecessor Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) with the words ‘Front Line Duty’ emblazoned on the front.  
 
Most ROF factories had gilded brass essential war worker badges but anything metallic was not permitted to be brought into the filling factories, so they had either Bakelite plastic badges or cloth badges.   
 
These badges were worn by employees when they were outside of the factory and were used to identify essential war workers in the population. Anyone wearing the badge was entitled to free public transport and other such benefits. It also served to prevent young, able bodied men in particular from being hassled by members of the public for not being away fighting the war.

 

 

Barrow


At Barrow, the shipyards were busy building submarines. HMS Alliance was under construction as part of the Amphion class of vessels, which included HMS Ambush and HMS Astute (the names of which have been reused on the new Astute class submarines).  Alongside the submarines, production was underway of two aircraft carriers of the Centaur Class - HMS Elephant and HMS Majestic, which would eventually be completed as HMS Hermes and HMAS Melbourne for the Australian Navy.
 

Dumbarton


The Blackburn factory in Dumbarton was producing Short Sunderland flying boats to keep open the transatlantic supply lines.
 

Filton 


The Bristol Beaufighter fighter-bomber was being produced at Filton and at shadow factories at Stockport and Weston-Super-Mare
 

Great Baddow


The Marconi Research Labs in Great Baddow were operating under military control, hosting the Admiralty Signals Establishment as they further developed their radar and communications networks.  
 

Hatfield 


Hatfield was utilising much of the capacity of the local furniture industry around High Wycombe to produce wooden components for the De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber – one of the first true multi-role combat aircraft.
 

Hucclecote, Gloucestershire


Many Hawker Hurricanes and Typhoons were built by Gloster Aircraft at Hucclecote.  However, by the end of the war they were focused on producing Britain’s first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, with much of the detailed manufacture subcontracted to Armstrong Whitworth and other companies.
 

Kingston 

 
This factory was owned by Leyland who were producing military transport vehicles, while Hawker was designing and building the new Hawker Typhoon and Tempest in their Canbury Road facility and at Langley near Slough.
 

Southampton


In the Southampton area Thornycroft were building destroyers and convoy protection vessels at Woolston that would serve for decades ahead.  Several even found their way into the German Navy in the late 1950’s. Meanwhile, Vosper were rounding off the production of their hugely successful Motor Torpedo Boats.
 

Weybridge 


The Vickers Wellington bombers were produced at Weybridge throughout the war, with further production at Chester and Blackpool.
 

Woodford and Chadderton

 
At Woodford and Chadderton, Avro Lancaster bombers were being built for the night raids on Germany.  They were also starting production of the stretched derivative, the Lincoln, which would be a key part of RAF capability postwar. 
 
 
 
 
 

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