The final book of the trilogy on army supply

The final  book of the trilogy on army supply
The third of my books on army supply

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Engineering Connections with Ordnance and War on Wheels, Lincoln and the Great Exhibition of 1851

I am exploring the companies I came across whilst writing War on Wheels and Ordnance. I have looked further at some of the leaders in Dunkirk to D Day

What of the companies? I have found myself exploring some of the earliest machines, but also the economics that drove people to make them. I have come across names and, as always seems to be the case, connections. Here are just some examples: the number of engineers in the Stevenson family, the generations of Maudslays, and, more generally, the prevalence of families.

One fascinating source is the catalogue to the Great Exhibition, copies of which are in many libraries but which is also available on line. This revealed a connection with the Stokes Mortar, which was invented by the managing director of the Ipswich engineers, Ransomes, who had exhibited the equipment they were making for the railway companies. For Lincoln dwellers there is an entry for Clayton, Shuttleworth & Co with an oscillating steam-engine but with ‘arrangements simple and compact, suitable for working corn mills, sawing machinery etc

My great grandfather was secretary to the committee of Surgical Instrument makers and he managed the business of J Weiss Co at 62, The Strand. He was presented with a catalogue, the cover of which has been preserved. 

My next book, How Britain Shaped the Manufacturing World seeks to tell this remarkable story.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Economic Parallels with 1914-18 and 1939-45

A package equivalent to 15% of GDP is of the magnitude of support for the war effort.

In 1914-18 there were still gold reserves, gold mined in Empire nations and investments overseas. One and a half centuries of industrial growth, during most of which Britain had been the workshop of the world, had built up substantial resources. Even in 1914, when Germany and the USA had caught up in terms of industrial production, British shipyards produced one third of the world’s ships and the cotton mills of Lancashire produced enough yarn and textiles to clothe half the world.[1] The war came at a great economic and well as human cost; some £11,325 million was spent, including loans to Russia which were never repaid. About one third was raised through taxation, £500 million from the sale of investments but the bulk from borrowing; the National Debt increased from £650 to £8,000 million and £1300 million was borrowed from overseas, mainly the USA.[2] All this was needed, amongst much else, pay for incredible quantities of guns and ammunition. Businesses across the country devoted production to the needs of the Ministry of Supply.

The country entered the interwar years much the poorer for having the meet the cost of war. The 1920s saw exceptionally hard times for traditional industries as other countries, not least the USA, took over the industrial and indeed financial lead. The 1930s saw growth in new industries such as cars, but nothing like that in Germany and the USA.

When the country went to war in 1939, the treasury was not full, and very soon massive borrowing was needed and has only recently finally been repaid. The cost of WW2, taken from the Statistical Digest of War was some £22,856 million.[3] The way in which this was financed was influenced strong by the writing of JM Keynes in his book How to pay for the War. Essentially Keynes argued successfully that substantial government borrowing was not only necessary but acceptable.
Writing more recently, Adair Turner in Between Debt and the Devil, argues that as a one off ‘money finance’ is acceptable in exceptional circumstances. COVID-19 is surely such a circumstance. [4]
Munition workers in WW1

[1] John Stevenson, Social history of Britain, British Society 1914-1945 (London: Pelican 1984, 1990), p.104.
[2] John Stevenson, Social history of Britain, British Society 1914-1945 (London: Pelican 1984, 1990), p.105.
[3] John Stevenson, Social history of Britain, British Society 1914-1945 (London: Pelican 1984, 1990), p.447.
[4] Adair Turner, Between Debt and the Devil, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), p.227).

Friday 13 March 2020

100,000 post views

Today this blog was viewed for the 100,000th time. A huge thank you to my visitors.
I began the blog in 2008, whilst studying on the MA in Professional Writing at University College Falmouth. I hardly used it between 2011 and 2014 (when I was working as Chief Executive at Lincoln Cathedral), but since then have been posting on the military subjects on which I have been writing.
I write this having begun another project. The one I have just completed in draft looked at the lives of some of the men who supplied the army. The project I am beginning looks at the companies which supplied the army, whence they came but also what happened to them, for many have disappeared.