The British Shadow Factory was the result of the Shadow Plan, a plan conceived in 1935 and developed by the British government for World War II, which used technology transfer from the automotive industry to provide additional manufacturing. to meet the urgent need for more aircraft. capacity. The term "shadow" does not imply secrecy, but rather the protection afforded by the placement of automotive people of all levels of skill alongside (in the shadow of) similar automotive operations. environment. The Directorate General of Aviation Production was established in March 1936 and was responsible for the production of airframes, engines, associated equipment and weapons. The project was directed by Herbert Austin and developed by the Ministry of Aviation under the internal project name "Shadow Scheme". Sir Kingsley Wood was appointed Secretary of State for Aviation in May 1938, replacing Lord Swinton, and assumed responsibility for the project. More factories were built as part of a decentralization scheme designed to reduce the risk of total production collapse if the main facility were to be bombed. These were not Shadow Factories, although some writers now use that name, erroneously believing that "Shadow" refers to an attempt to achieve some level of secrecy.

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Purpose and use

Although camouflaged once the fighting began, it was impossible for these facilities to remain secret. These are munitions production facilities built in the “shadow” of automobile industry factories to facilitate the transfer of technology to aircraft manufacturing. were operated in parallel. The Chief of the Luftwaffe, General Erhard Milch, visited England again in the autumn of 1937 to inspect the new shadow factories at Birmingham and Coventry, the RAF planes and airfields.

= Background =

Until mid-1938, the Air Ministry was headed by Lord Swinton. He had been forced to resign by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on the grounds that rearmament of the Royal Air Force was not progressing as a result of the obstruction of the elderly Lord Nuffield. Swinton's officials approached their new boss, Sir Kingsley Wood, and showed them a series of informal questions they had asked since 1935 on the subject. Such questions included those posed to Morris Motors regarding the capacity of its Cowley factory in Oxford to produce aircraft engines. . After all, the specialized high-power engines required by the Royal Air Force are manufactured by Armstrong Siddeley, Bristol Aeroplane, Napier, and Rolls-Royce, all of whom employ numerous subcontractors. was Despite the new factory, protests by Wolsley Aero Engines (Nuffield) and Alvis were ignored. I didn't need their product. The engine was specified by the aircraft designer. Nuffield joined after Wood's appointment, and provided the Castle Bromwich factory, promising to produce 1,000 Spitfires by June 1940, but two years later the business was so bad that 1940 No Spitfires were built there when it arrived in June. Bromwich Castle was withdrawn from Nuffield by Beaverbrook and placed under the control of Vickers.

= Implementation =

The plan had two parts. Developed 9 new factories. The government will build factories and equip them. Auto companies will be required to gain experience in making engine parts so that new plants can quickly go into full production if war breaks out. Expansion of existing factory complexes to allow easy conversion to aircraft industry capacity or expansion of production capacity. Under this plan, government funding was provided in the form of grants and loans to build these new production facilities. Key to this plan were Rolls-Royce products and plans. Rolls-Royce's Merlin engines, like Bristol's Hercules engines, powered many of the major aircraft under development by the Air Ministry. Bristol Aircraft does not allow shadow factories to build complete engines, only components. The exception was Austin. The first motor manufacturers selected for Engine Shadow were Austin, Daimler, Humber (Roots Securities), Singer, Standard, Rover and Wolseley. As a result, Lord Nuffield removed Wolseley from his contract and Singer found himself in serious financial trouble.

== The buildings ==

Wood handed over the execution of the entire project to the Directorate General of Works, Ministry of Aviation, appointed Herbert Austin as lead (most of the facilities to be developed were parallel to the existing automobile factory), and Charles as the technical liaison with the aircraft industry. Appointed Bruce Gardner. . He also handed Lord Nuffield the delivery of a major new factory at Bromwich Castle, which was contracted to deliver 1,000 new Supermarine Spitfires to the Royal Air Force by the end of 1940. That responsibility had to be taken over from Nuffield. The buildings were huts up to 2,000 feet (610 m) long, lit by either glass roofs or "northern lighting". The office accommodation was of brick construction and faced the main road whenever possible. These buildings are highly adaptable and have remained part of the British industrial landscape for over 50 years. One of the largest was Cofton Hackett, next to the Longbridge Works in Austin, where construction began in August 1936. At 1,530 feet (470 m) long and 410 feet (120 m) wide, the structure covered 20 acres (81,000 m2). A 15-acre (61,000 m2) fuselage shop was then added, and a further 500 ft (150 m) by 190 ft (58 m) flight shed was attached to the fuselage shop. The new factory building was a model of an efficient factory layout. They had wide, clear walkways and good lighting, and had no shafts or belt drives. The five shadow factories at Coventry were all in production by the end of October 1937, producing parts for the Bristol Mercury engine. By January 1938, two of these shadow factories were producing complete airframes. In July 1938, the first bomber, built entirely in the Shadow Factory (Austin's), flew in front of Secretary of State for Aviation, Sir Kingsley Wood. In February 1940, eight shadow factories manufacturing aircraft parts were said to be producing in or near Coventry. As plans progressed, after Austin's death in 1941, the Ministry of Aviation Factory Directorate was established under the auspices of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. (MAP) gradually became responsible for the construction of buildings necessary for the production of aircraft. In early 1943, the functions of the Directorate General of Factories of the Ministry of Aviation were transferred to the Ministry of Factories. Scotland There were three waves of shadow factory construction, and only the third and smallest reached Scotland in the form of the Hillington factory, which produced Rolls-Royce's Merlin engines. Ferranti's factory in Crewe Tor, Edinburgh was supposed to be top secret. The EmpireSimilar plan has also been introduced in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Strategic dispersal

A defense white paper published in February 1937 warned against the risk of air raids devastating the supply of essential goods by building new satellite factories that also mobilized labor, even at the cost of some duplication. announced that measures were taken to mitigate From congested or difficult areas. There were areas where serious unemployment continued.

= London Aircraft Production Group =

Parallel to the Shadow Factory project, the London Aircraft Manufacturing Group (LAPG) was founded in 1940. cue chrysler, Duple, Express Motor & Bodyworks Limited, Park Royal Coachworks and London Transport Group's main activity was the production of Handley Page Halifax bombers, ammunition, gun parts, armored vehicles and vehicle spare parts for the Royal Air Force. The group was headed by Transport for London from its factory in Aldenham, Chiswick and its new de Havilland factory in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, which included a large dedicated factory for production and an airfield (both construction was authorized on January 10, 1940). Assembly and flight testing of the completed Halifax bomber. The following list of eight members of the London Aircraft Production Group was published in March 1945. This includes LAPG members with factories in Preston, Speke and Stockport. Preston's English Electric London Passenger Transport Board — created midsection and installed forward fuselage fittings and equipment Speak's Roots Securities Chrysler Motors — rear fuselage Express Motor and Body Works — Intermediate and Tail Double Body and Motors - Front Fuselage Shells and Components Park Royal Coachworks — Outer Wing Stockport's Fairey Airlines was responsible for final assembly and subsequent test flights from May 1941, with the first aircraft flying by the end of 1941. Instead of sending aircraft to Handley Page Airfield, they were assigned their own airfield. Involving 41 factories and distributed forces, 660 subcontractors, and over 51,000 employees, the group eventually increased production to 200 Halifaxes per month, making it about 200,000 of the nation's heavy bomber production. supplied 40 percent. Halifax bombers dropped over 200,000 tons of bombs. Sir Frederick Handley Page's 'thank you' to these 'daughter' companies was a luncheon at Dorchester, where the heads of each company were presented with a silver model of the Halifax bomber, a representative The workers were presented with scrolls. As aircraft production was given top priority, many workers with little experience or training in aircraft production were conscripted, and eventually more than half of the workers were women. At its peak, LAPG included 41 factories or locations, 600 subcontractors, and 51,000 employees, producing one aircraft an hour. The LAPG's first Halifax was delivered in 1941 and the last Halifax, named London Pride, was delivered in April 1945.

= Follow-on initiatives =

The proposal and implementation of shadow factories, especially their robustness when bombed, meant that other major branches of military production prepared their own distributed factory plans. In Coventry alone he had twenty locations producing vehicles and munitions. Shortly after an enemy attack completely destroyed the Alvis factory in 1940, Alvis was able to operate eight decentralized factories and resume deliveries of its most important products. Further enemy attacks resulted in the allocation of nine more decentralized factories, and after Pearl Harbor in late 1941, Alvis organized, equipped and managed a new shadow factory to manufacture variable pitch propeller hubs. Rover managed and managed six shadow factories on behalf of the government and operated 18 different spray factories of its own. When the Birmingham Small Arms Factory at Small Heath, the sole production site for military rifle barrels and main aircraft machine guns, was bombed by the Luftwaffe from August to November 1940, production was delayed and Prime Minister Churchill reportedly the most concerned. Industrial damage during air raids. The Government Supply Department and BSA immediately began the process of distributing production across the UK through a shadow factory scheme. In the latter half of the war, BSA managed 67 factories at Small Heath Office, operated 28,000 employees and 25,000 machine tools, and manufactured small arms supplies to the British Army during the war. Produced more than half. In 1942 British India built a small arms factory in Kanpur as a shadow of the Ishapol Rifle Factory.


In June 1939, the answer to the parliamentary question was: 31 Shadow Factories have been completed or are under construction. The Air Ministry was responsible for 16 projects, 11 of which were in full operation. By then, many of Bristol's engines and aircraft were being manufactured in government-owned shadow factories, Dominion and elsewhere. In February 1944, Congress was reported to have 175 administrative agency plans or shadow factories.

National Archives catalogue entries

Information about Shadow Factory plans and Shadow Factories can be found under the code headings of the following Records and Explanatory Series list held by the National Archives. For the complete set of references (including the German Shadow Factory), please see the catalog below.

See also

Supermarine Spitfire § Production Decentralization


Nutland, Martin (2012). Brick by Brick: A Biography of the Man Who Really Made Minis – Leonard Lord. author's home. ISBN 978-1-4772-0317-0.

External links

Build Beaufort in Australia The Shadow Scheme 1 hour 10 minute documentary released on July 15, 2013 'Production – What's Wrong?', Flight 14 April 1938 – A modern critic of pre-war British aircraft production expansion

Science News


Definition & Meaning



  • the people of Great Britain


  • of or relating to or characteristic of Great Britain or its people or culture



  • shade within clear boundaries an unilluminated area something existing in perception only a premonition of something adverse an indication that something has been present refuge from danger or observation a dominating and pervasive presence a spy employed to follow someone and report their movements an inseparable companion


  • follow, usually without the person's knowledge cast a shadow over make appear small by comparison



  • a plant consisting of one or more buildings with facilities for manufacturing


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