The English Electric Company Limited was a British industrial manufacturer formed after the armistice of World War I by amalgamating five businesses which, during the war, had been making munitions, armaments and aeroplanes.
It initially specialised in industrial electric motors and transformers, railway locomotives and traction equipment, diesel motors and steam turbines. Its activities were later expanded to include consumer electronics, nuclear reactors, guided missiles, military aircraft and mainframe computers.
Two English Electric aircraft designs became landmarks in British aeronautical engineering; the Canberra or B-57, and the Lightning. In 1960, English Electric Aircraft (40%) merged with Vickers (40%) and Bristol (20%) to form British Aircraft Corporation.
|The English Electric Company Limited|
General Electric Company plc
|Successor||General Electric Company plc|
British Aircraft Corporation
International Computers Limited
|Founded||December 1918 (as The English Electric Company Limited)|
|Headquarters||Strand, London, England, U.K.|
|Subsidiaries||D. Napier & Son (1942–)|
The Marconi Company (1948–)
Vulcan Foundry (1955–)
Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns (1955–)
English Electric Aviation (1958–)
English Electric Leo Marconi (1964–)
Aiming to turn their employees and other assets to peaceful productive purposes, the owners of a series of businesses decided to merge them forming The English Electric Company Limited in December 1918.
English Electric was formed to acquire ownership of:
The owners of the component companies took up the shares in English Electric.
John Pybus was appointed managing director in March 1921 and chairman in April 1926. Initially J H Mansell of Coventry Ordnance Works, John Pybus of Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing and W Rutherford of Dick, Kerr were joint managing directors.
The five previously independent major operations under their control had these principal capabilities:
Together these businesses covered the whole field of electrical machinery from the smallest fan motor to the largest turbo-generator.
However, there was no post-war boom in electrical generation. Though English Electric products were indeed in heavy demand, potential buyers were unable to raise the necessary capital funds. In 1922, a drastic reorganisation of the works was carried through and that managed to halve overheads. The Coventry Ordnance Works was practically closed down. Cables, lamps and wireless equipment were then in buoyant demand, but that would have been a new field for the company to enter. English Electric's business was in heavy electrical and mechanical plant. Both the 1926 general strike and the miners strike caused heavy losses. In 1929 part of the Coventry Ordnance Works was sold and the pattern shop at Preston, neither of which was required.
By the end of 1929, it was clear the only solution to English Electric's financial difficulties was a financial restructure. The restructure acknowledged the loss of much of the shareholders' capital and brought in new capital to re-equip with new plant and machinery. In the event, an American syndicate fronted by Lazard Brothers and Co. bankers came up with the new capital, but left control in the hands of the previous shareholders.
In June 1930, four fresh directors were appointed, filling four new vacancies.
Ten days later, there was a formal announcement of an American Arrangement. "English Electric, with works at Preston, Stafford, Rugby, Bradford and Coventry, had entered into a comprehensive arrangement" with Westinghouse Electric International Company of New York and Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company of East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, whereby there would be an exchange of technical information between the two organisations on steam turbines and electrical apparatus. It was made clear that this technical and manufacturing link did not carry with it any control from America. In recognition of the exchange arrangement, Westinghouse had offered to provide further capital, which would be less than 10% of the total, including that new capital organised earlier by Lazard Brothers.
Seven weeks later the chairman, W L Hichens, who had temporarily replaced P J Pybus in 1927 retired at the end of July 1930 and was replaced by Sir Holberry Mensforth as a director and as chairman. It was then announced that a Mr George H Nelson had been appointed to the board and would take up the position of managing director early in October. Mensforth had been taken away from his position as general manager of American Westinghouse Trafford Park Manchester —where George Nelson had been his apprentice— in 1919 by the Minister of Transport. The Minister had given Mensforth the responsibility of easing the transition of the nation's munitions businesses back into peacetime industry. It was Mensforth had arranged the technical exchange agreement and extra capital with Westinghouse. They began to reorganise.
The main base of the company's operation was moved from London to Stafford including the sales departments, general and factory accounts and the principal executives previously in London. The managing director was to divide his time between the various works but would be mainly in Stafford or in London
On 30 December 1930 the engineering shops at Preston closed leaving the following distribution:
Manufacture of domestic apparatus got under way at both Stafford and Bradford during 1931. They were followed in 1934 by a range of household meters of various kinds. In the same report to shareholders the chairman pointed out that every day 330 more homes adopted electricity for heating cooking and lighting and between 1929 and 1935 the production of electricity in Britain had increased by 70 per cent.
1933 proved to be the first of four years of real achievement. At the beginning of July 1933, Mensforth stepped down and George Nelson took up the post of chairman. Nelson remained managing director. Mensforth kept a seat on the board from which he retired at the end of 1936.
English Electric's recovery was noted by commentators as remarkable. During 1936, past preference dividends had been brought up to date: they were English Electric's first dividend since a 1924 dividend on ordinary shares. The balance sheet at the end of 1936 showed liquidity was in a strong position and the chairman told shareholders that the rate of production in the factories for the last three months of the year was double the rate of production in the first three months.
During 1938, the first dividend was paid on ordinary shares since 1924.
In the summer of 1938, a large display advertisement confidently declared:
Tanks, locomotives, submarines, ships, power generation
de Havilland Vampire
From 1912 to 1924, United Electric and English Electric (with assistance from Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock) supplied second- and third-series tramcars for Hong Kong Tramways. These cars were eventually retired from 1924 to 1930 as the fourth Generation cars were being introduced.
In 1923, English Electric supplied electric locomotives for the New Zealand Railways for use between Arthurs Pass and Otira, in the Southern Alps. Between 1924 and 1926, they delivered nine box-cab electric (B+B) locomotives to the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal (later the National Harbours Board). In 1927, English Electric delivered 20 electric motor cars for Warsaw's Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa. During the 1930s, equipment was supplied for the electrification of the Southern Railway system, reinforcing EE's position in the traction market, and it continued to provide traction motors to them for many years.
In 1936, production of diesel locomotives began in the former tramworks in Preston. Between the late 1930s and the 1950s, English Electric supplied electric multiple unit trains for the electrified network in and around Wellington, New Zealand. Between 1951 and 1959, English Electric supplied the National Coal Board with five 51-ton, 400 hp electric shunting locomotives for use on the former Harton Coal Company System at South Shields (which had been electrified by Siemens in 1908) to supplement the existing fleet of ten ageing Siemens and AEG locomotives. English Electric took over Vulcan Foundry and Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns, both with substantial railway engineering pedigrees, in 1955.
English Electric produced nearly 1000 diesel and electric locomotives, of nine different classes, for British Rail as part of the Modernisation Plan in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of these classes of locomotive gave long service to British Rail and its successor train operating companies, some still being active well into the 21st century.
Both Dick, Kerr & Co. and the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Company built aircraft in the First World War, including flying boats designed by the Seaplane Experimental Station at Felixstowe, 62 Short Type 184 and 6 Short Bombers designed by Short Brothers. Aircraft manufacture under the English Electric name began in Bradford in 1922 with the Wren but lasted only until 1926 after the last Kingston flying boat was built.
With War in Europe looming, English Electric was instructed by the Air Ministry to construct a "shadow factory" at Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire to build Handley Page Hampden bombers. Starting with Flight Shed Number 1, the first Hampden built by English Electric made its maiden flight on 22 February 1940 and, by 1942, 770 Hampdens had been delivered – more than half of all the Hampdens produced. In 1940, a second factory was built on the site and the runway was extended to allow for construction of the Handley Page Halifax four-engined heavy bomber to begin. By 1945, five main hangars and three runways had been built at the site, which was also home to No. 9 Group RAF. By the end of the war, over 2,000 Halifaxes had been built and flown from Samlesbury.
In 1942, English Electric took over D. Napier & Son, an aero-engine manufacturer. Along with the shadow factory, this helped to re-establish the company's aeronautical engineering division. Post-war, English Electric invested heavily in this sector, moving design and experimental facilities to the former RAF Warton near Preston in 1947. This investment led to major successes with the Lightning and Canberra, the latter serving in a multitude of roles from 1951 until mid-2006 with the Royal Air Force.
At the end of the war, English Electric started production under licence of the second British jet fighter, the de Havilland Vampire, with 1,300 plus built at Samlesbury. Their own design work took off after the Second World War under W. E. W. Petter, formerly of Westland Aircraft. Although English Electric produced only two aircraft designs before their activities became part of BAC, the design team put forward suggestions for many Air Ministry projects.
The aircraft division was formed into the subsidiary English Electric Aviation Ltd. in 1958, becoming a founding constituent of the new British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) in 1960; English Electric having a 40% stake in the latter company. The guided weapons division was added to BAC in 1963.
The Industrial Electronics Division was established at Stafford. One of the products produced at this branch was the Igniscope, a revolutionary design of ignition tester for petrol engines. This was invented by Napiers and supplied as Type UED for military use during World War 2. After the war, it was marketed commercially as type ZWA.
In 1946, English Electric took over the Marconi Company, a foray into the domestic consumer electronic market. English Electric tried to take over one of the other major British electrical companies, the General Electric Company (GEC), in 1960 and, in 1963, English Electric and J. Lyons and Co. formed a jointly owned company – English Electric LEO Company – to manufacture the LEO Computer developed by Lyons.
English Electric took over Lyons' half-stake in 1964 and merged it with Marconi's computer interests to form English Electric Leo Marconi (English Electric LM). The latter was merged with Elliott Automation and International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) to form International Computers Limited (ICL) in 1967. In 1968 GEC, recently merged with Associated Electrical Industries (AEI), merged with English Electric; the former being the dominant partner, the English Electric name was then lost.
Complete electrification schemes
Oil engines Generators
Switchgear, transformers, rectifiers
Electric and Diesel-electric traction equipment
Marine Propulsion equipment
Locomotives and multiple units
Several industrial diesel and electric locomotive types were also built for UK and export use.
Baron Nelson of Stafford, of Hilcote Hall in the County of Stafford, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1960 for the businessman Sir George Nelson, 1st Baronet, for many years Chairman of English Electric. He had already been created a Baronet in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom in 1955. He was succeeded by his only son, the second Baron. He was also Chairman of English Electric as well as a director of the Bank of England. As of 2010 the titles are held by his grandson, the fourth Baron, who succeeded his father in 2006.British Aircraft Corporation
The British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) was a British aircraft manufacturer formed from the government-pressured merger of English Electric Aviation Ltd., Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft), the Bristol Aeroplane Company and Hunting Aircraft in 1960. Bristol, English Electric and Vickers became "parents" of BAC with shareholdings of 20%, 40% and 40% respectively. BAC in turn acquired the share capital of their aviation interests and 70% of Hunting several months later. Its head office was on the top floors of the 100 Pall Mall building in the City of Westminster, London.British Rail Class 20
The British Rail (BR) Class 20, otherwise known as an English Electric Type 1, is a class of diesel-electric locomotive. In total, 228 locomotives in the class were built by English Electric between 1957 and 1968, the large number being in part because of the failure of other early designs in the same power range to provide reliable locomotives.
The locomotives were originally numbered D8000–D8199 and D8300–D8327. They are known by railway enthusiasts as "Choppers".British Rail Class 23
The British Rail Class 23 were a class of ten Bo-Bo diesel-electric locomotives built by the English Electric Company (EE) in 1959. The power unit used was a Napier Deltic T9-29 9-cylinder engine of 1,100 bhp (820 kW) driving an EE generator, which powered the four traction motors. They were numbered from D5900 to D5909.The T9-29 diesel engine was a single, half-sized version of those used in the more powerful British Rail Class 55 'Deltic' locomotives, and the overall design and external appearance of the Class 23 was also similar to the Class 55, but much shorter, leading to their nickname of Baby Deltics.British Rail Class 37
The British Rail Class 37 is a diesel-electric locomotive. Also known as the English Electric Type 3, the Class was ordered as part of the British Rail modernisation plan. They were numbered in two series, D6600-D6608 and D6700-D6999.The Class 37 became a familiar sight on many parts of the British Rail network, in particular forming the main motive power for InterCity services in East Anglia and within Scotland. They also performed well on secondary and inter-regional services for many years. The Class 37s are known to some railway enthusiasts as "Tractors", a nickname due to the agricultural sound of the diesel engine of the locomotive.
Despite all members of the build now being over 50 years old, over 60 locomotives are still mainline registered and remain active undertaking a variety of passenger, freight and departmental duties on the national rail network in 2018. Approximately 30 locomotives have been preserved.British Rail Class 55
The British Rail Class 55 was a class of diesel locomotive built in 1961 and 1962 by English Electric for British Rail. They were designed for the high-speed express passenger services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between Edinburgh and London King's Cross. They gained the name "Deltic" from the prototype locomotive, DP1 Deltic (the running number DP1 was never carried), which in turn was named after its Napier Deltic power units.
Twenty-two locomotives were built, which dominated express passenger services on the ECML, particularly from London to Leeds and Edinburgh, until 1978 when High Speed Trains (HSTs) were introduced. They were subsequently relegated to semi-fast services on the Kings Cross to York, Edinburgh and Hull routes and continued on sleeper services along the ECML. Other occasional destinations, although with no officially diagrammed work, included Cleethorpes, Stockport, Liverpool Lime Street and Aberdeen. They rarely worked to Skegness and Scarborough. Other very unusual destinations included Bridlington, Leicester and a BR "Merrymaker" trip to Fort William. They could be found on diversionary routes such as Newcastle to Edinburgh via Carlisle and Doncaster to Peterborough via Lincoln and Spalding, rarely Cambridge although arriving at Kings Cross via Hertford was not unusual. During the latter years organised Railtours took them further afield to Worcester, Cardiff, Bognor Regis, Dover, Norwich and Exeter. All were withdrawn from service between January 1980 and December 1981.
Three were retained for a few days, until 2 January 1982, to work the farewell special, all being withdrawn immediately on arrival back at York. Six locomotives entered preservation during 1982 and 1983: one by the National Railway Museum, two by the Deltic Preservation Society, two by the Deltic 9000 Fund and one privately owned. Two cabs were also privately purchased.British Rail Class D16/1
LMS No. 10000 and 10001 were the first mainline diesel locomotives built in Great Britain. They were built in association with English Electric by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway at its Derby Works, using an English Electric 1600 hp diesel engine, generator and electrics.
Under British Railways, the locomotives became British Railways Class D16/1; they were initially operated primarily on mainline express passenger services on former LMS lines, both in single and in multiple. In 1953, they were transferred to the Southern Region for comparison with O. Bulleid's British Rail Class D16/2 diesel locomotives.
Both units were withdrawn and scrapped in the 1960s.English Electric Canberra
The English Electric Canberra is a British first-generation jet-powered medium bomber that was manufactured during the 1950s. It was developed by English Electric during the mid-to-late 1940s in response to a 1944 Air Ministry requirement for a successor to the wartime de Havilland Mosquito fast bomber. Among the performance requirements for the type was the demand for an outstanding high-altitude bombing capability and high speed. These were partly accomplished by making use of newly developed jet propulsion technology. When the Canberra was introduced to service with the Royal Air Force (RAF), the type's first operator, in May 1951, it became the service's first jet-powered bomber aircraft.
Throughout most of the 1950s, the Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber or even any other aircraft in the world. In 1957, one Canberra established a world altitude record of 70,310 feet (21,430 m). In February 1951, another Canberra set another world record when it became the first jet aircraft to make a non-stop transatlantic flight. Due to its ability to evade the early jet interceptor aircraft and its significant performance advancement over contemporary piston-engined bombers, the Canberra became a popular aircraft on the export market, being procured for service in the air forces of many nations both inside and outside of the Commonwealth of Nations. The type was also licence produced in Australia by the Government Aircraft Factories and in the US by Martin as the B-57 Canberra. The latter produced both slightly modified B-57A Canberra, and the significantly updated B-57B.
In addition to being a tactical nuclear strike aircraft, the Canberra proved to be highly adaptable, serving in varied roles such as tactical bombing and photographic and electronic reconnaissance. Canberras served in the Suez Crisis, the Vietnam War, the Falklands War, the Indo-Pakistani wars, and numerous African conflicts. In several wars, each of the opposing sides had Canberras in their air forces. The Canberra had a lengthy service life, serving for more than 50 years with some operators. In June 2006, the RAF retired the last of its Canberras, 57 years after its first flight. Three of the Martin B-57 variant remain in service, performing meteorological work for NASA, as well as providing electronic communication (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node or BACN) testing for deployment to Afghanistan.English Electric Lightning
The English Electric Lightning is a fighter aircraft that served as an interceptor during the 1960s, the 1970s and the late 1980s. It remains the only UK-designed-and-built fighter capable of Mach 2. The Lightning was designed, developed, and manufactured by English Electric, which was subsequently absorbed by the newly-formed British Aircraft Corporation. Later the type was marketed as the BAC Lightning. It was operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Kuwait Air Force (KAF) and the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF).
A unique feature of the Lightning's design is the vertical, staggered configuration of its two Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engines within the fuselage. The Lightning was initially designed and developed as an interceptor to defend the V bomber airfields from attack by anticipated future nuclear-armed supersonic Soviet bombers such as what emerged as the Tupolev Tu-22, but it was subsequently also required to intercept other bomber aircraft such as the Tupolev Tu-16 and the Tupolev Tu-95. The Lightning has exceptional rate of climb, ceiling, and speed; pilots have described flying it as "being saddled to a skyrocket". This performance and the initially limited fuel supply made the Lightning a "fuel-critical" aircraft, meaning that its missions are dictated to a high degree by its limited range. Later developments provided greater range and speed along with aerial reconnaissance and ground-attack capability.
Following retirement by the RAF in the late 1980s, many of the remaining aircraft became museum exhibits. Until 2009, three Lightnings were kept flying at "Thunder City" in Cape Town, South Africa. In September 2008, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers conferred on the Lightning its "Engineering Heritage Award" at a ceremony at BAE Systems' site at Warton Aerodrome.LEO (computer)
The LEO I (Lyons electronic office I) was the first computer used for commercial business applications.
The prototype LEO I was modelled closely on the Cambridge EDSAC. Its construction was overseen by Oliver Standingford, Raymond Thompson and David Caminer of J. Lyons and Co. LEO I ran its first business application in 1951. In 1954 Lyons formed LEO Computers Ltd to market LEO I and its successors LEO II and LEO III, to other companies. LEO Computers eventually became part of English Electric Company (EELM) where the same team developed the faster LEO 360 and even faster LEO 326 models. It then passed to International Computers Limited (ICL) and ultimately Fujitsu.
LEO series computers were still in use until 1981.Marconi Company
The Marconi Company was a British telecommunications and engineering company that did business under that name from 1963 to 1987. It was derived from earlier variations in the name and incorporation, spanning a period from its inception in 1897 until 2006, during which time it underwent numerous changes, mergers and acquisitions. The company was founded by the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi and began as the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company. The company was a pioneer of wireless long distance communication and mass media broadcasting, eventually becoming one of the UK's most successful manufacturing companies. In 1999, its defence manufacturing division, Marconi Electronic Systems, merged with British Aerospace to form BAE Systems. In 2006, extreme financial difficulties led to the collapse of the remaining company, with the bulk of the business acquired by the Swedish telecommunications company, Ericsson.NZR DF class (1954)
The New Zealand DF class locomotive of 1954 was the first class of mainline diesel-electric locomotives built for New Zealand's national railway network, built by English Electric. It should not be confused with General Motors Electro-Motive Division DF class of 1979.Rolls-Royce Avon
The Rolls-Royce Avon was the first axial flow jet engine designed and produced by Rolls-Royce. Introduced in 1950, the engine went on to become one of their most successful post-World War II engine designs. It was used in a wide variety of aircraft, both military and civilian, as well as versions for stationary and maritime power.
An English Electric Canberra powered by two Avons made the first un-refuelled non-stop transatlantic flight by a jet, and a BOAC de Havilland Comet 4 powered by four Avons made the first scheduled transatlantic crossing by a jet airliner.
Production of the Avon aero engine version ended after 24 years in 1974. Production of the derived Avon industrial version, currently produced by Siemens, continues to this day.
The current version of the Avon, the Avon 200, is an industrial gas generator that is rated at 21–22,000 shp. As of 2011, 1,200 Industrial Avons have been sold, and the type has established a 60,000,000 hour record for its class.Society of British Aerospace Companies
The Society of British Aerospace Companies, formerly Society of British Aircraft Constructors, known as SBAC, was the UK's national trade association representing companies supplying civil air transport, aerospace defence, homeland security and space. As of October 2009 SBAC merged with the Defence Manufacturers Association and the Association of Police and Public Security Suppliers to form the ADS Group.
The SBAC organises the Farnborough Airshow.South African Class ES1
The South African Railways Class ES1 of 1924 was an electric locomotive.
In 1924, the South African Railways placed a single Class ES1 battery-powered shunting locomotive in service at the construction site of the Colenso power station. In 1927, the power station and the locomotive were sold to the Electricity Supply Commission and in 1937 the locomotive was purchased back for use at the Daimana (Danskraal) locomotive depot.