Aircraft

Although some aircraft had been built in Coventry before the First World War, it was the fact that so many major engineering and car firms were well established at the start of hostilities that government contracts were placed for building both aircraft and engines. Daimler, Humber, Siddeley Deasey and Standard were the main recipients of these contracts. The Daimler Company in particular were quick to respond to the war needs, signing an agreement with the French Gnome engine company in the first week of the war to produce their 80 HP seven cylinder rotary engine. They promised to have an engine running within eight weeks of receiving a sample engine. When it was received it was stripped down, drawings made, materials acquired, the parts manufactured and assembled. A special test rig was also manufactured and the engine was started up with one hour to spare. Later a 250 HP nine-cylinder BR2 rotary engine designed by W O Bentley was produced, three hundred and thirty nine of these engines being delivered in one month alone at the latter stage of the war.  In addition an airfield needed to be built at the rear of the Radford works to enable the large number of aircraft produced to be test flown. The Standard Company also had to build a special works at Canley in 1916 to enable aircraft to be manufactured. By the armistice no fewer than 1,600 RE8 and BE12 together with Sopwith Pup and Camel machines had been produced. With the ending of the war, production of aircraft and engines ceased with the exception of one company, Siddeley Deasey who had produced the 6-cylinder BHP water-cooled engine during the war had redesigned it to become the Puma. This, together with the Siskin aircraft brought out later with the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar engine, laid the foundations of this very successful company, who after acquiring the old RAF flying field at Whitley in 1920 went on to design many wonderful aircraft. These included the bomber named after the airfield that did such noble service during the Second World War. (See page 72) Although now merged with Rolls Royce the expertise built up since the First World War still lives on at Ansty.