Civilian Repair Organisation

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The Civilian Repair Organisation (CRO) was a branch of the British Air Ministry (later, of the Ministry of Aircraft Production), formed in 1939 to co-ordinate maintenance and repairs of military aircraft by civilian firms.

It should not be confused with the Civil Repair Organisation, which carried out similar functions for the UK Air Ministry in India between 1943 and 1945.

Background[edit]

Following the outbreak of World War II, on 11 September 1939 the No.1 Civilian Repair Unit (CRU) was established at the Cowley works of Morris Motors, to be staffed by civilians under the management of the Air Ministry. On 6 October 1939, Sir Kingsley Wood (Secretary of State for Air) officially appointed William Morris (Lord Nuffield) as Director General (Maintenance), to organise and manage the Civilian Repair Organisation (CRO), to control the CRU and participating civilian firms. Nuffield, as the head of Morris Motors, had been in charge of the shadow factory for aircraft production at Castle Bromwich. CRO administration was established at Magdalen College, Oxford. On 14 May 1940, supervision of the CRO was transferred from the Air Ministry to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, under Lord Beaverbrook. The No.1 CRU was supplemented by the No.1 Metal and Produce Recovery Depot (MPRD), established adjacent to the existing Cowley works. At Cowley, a support unit was established in the form of No.50 Maintenance Unit (MU), to transport damaged aircraft and parts to the CRU and to firms participating in the CRO, and also to collect non-repairable parts and scrap for materials reclamation at MPRD. Individual Maintenance Units came under the control of No.43 Group, RAF Maintenance Command.[1][2]

Civilian workers carrying out salvage and repair work on a wing of a Fairey Swordfish aircraft

The civilian firms under individual contracts from the CRO were mostly existing companies engaged in the production, maintenance, repair and operation of aircraft in the UK. Those were supplemented by additional companies in the engineering and woodworking industrial sectors. Repairs to whole aircraft or parts of aircraft were often carried out in dispersed industrial factories, then transported to airfields for re-assembly and test flying, before re-delivery to RAF units.[1] For cases of minor repairs that could be achieved quickly, aircraft could be flown to a CRO firm based at an airfield, repaired, and flown out the following day by the same pilot; these were known as "Fly In" repairs.[3][4]

List of firms participating in the CRO[edit]

Principal ref: Sturtivant 2007[1]

Company Locations Work
Air Dispatch Ltd. Cardiff Repair Audax, Hart, Hector, Henley, Hind, Lysander, Potez, Wicko; parts of Wellington;
Vengeance modifications
Air Service Training Ltd Exeter, Hamble Repair Airacobra, Hampden, Mustang, Seafire, Spitfire; parts of Spitfire;
Mosquito modifications
Airspares Ltd Hyde Administration only?
Airspeed (1934) Ltd. Christchurch, Portsmouth Repair Oxford
Air Taxis Ltd Altrincham, Barton, Middleton Repair Anson, Dominie
Airtraining (Fair Oaks) Ltd. Fair Oaks Repair Beaufighter, Beaufort, Blenheim
Airtraining (Oxford) Ltd. Kidlington Repair Hurricane
Airwork General Trading Co. Ltd. Gatwick, Loughborough, Renfrew, Staverton Repair Anson (S), Battle, Blenheim, Boston (L), Havoc, Lancaster parts, Lysander, Oxford, Spitfire, Tomahawk, Wellington, Whitley (G);
Wellington conversions
Albany Sheet Metal & Engineering Co. Ltd. Oldham Repair Beaufighter, Blenheim; parts of Mosquito
Anchor Motors Co. Ltd. Chester Parts of Wellington
A.P. Aircraft Ltd. Coventry Parts of Blenheim
Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd. Coventry Repair Whitley
Atlantic Coast Airlines Ltd. Barnstaple Repair Anson, Falcon, Fox Moth, Hornet Moth, Hotspur, Lysander, Magister, Martinet, Mentor, Proctor, Tiger Moth, Tutor, Whitney Straight
Austin Motor Co. Ltd. Cofton Hackett, Elmdon, Marston Green Repair Battle; parts of Stirling
A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd. Bracebridge Heath, Chadderton, Langar, Ringway, Waddington, Woodford, Yeadon Repair Anson, Lancaster, Manchester; parts of Lancaster; Anson modifications, Manchester modifications
J.Berry & Sons Ltd. Sywell Parts of Blenheim, Hotspur, Oxford; Master modifications
Blackburn Aircraft Ltd. Abbotsinch, Sherburn Repair Shark, Skua, Swordfish; parts of Firebrand, Sunderland; Skua mods
Boulton & Paul Aircraft Ltd. Wolverhampton Repair Wellington; parts of Roc; Wellington modifications
Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd. Weston-super-Mare, Whitchurch Repair Beaufort, Blenheim, Bombay; parts of Sea Otter, Sunderland, Wellington
Brooklands Aviation Ltd. Doncaster, Northampton, Sywell Repair Wellington; parts of Lancaster
Brush Coachworks Ltd. Loughborough Repair Hampden; parts of Hereford
Burtonwood Repair Depot Great Sankey Repair Buffalo; mods, repair & overhaul various USAAC aircraft
Campbell Engineering Ltd. Bromley Salvage
Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd. Eastleigh, Macmerry, Marwell, Silloth, Southampton Repair Albacore, Blenheim, Boston, Cleveland, Henley, Hudson, Tomahawk, Typhoon, Vengeance, Venture
John Curran Ltd. Cardiff Repair Beaufighter, Blenheim, Martinet
de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd. Hatfield, Leavesden, Witney DH.82 Queen Bee, DH.86B; parts of Magister
Dobson & Barlow Ltd. Samlesbury Repair Halifax, Vampire
Entwistle & Kenyon Ltd. Accrington Parts of Albemarle, Beaufighter, Beaufort, Blenheim, Stirling, Tiger Moth, Wellington
Fairey Aviation Ltd. Hamble, Hayes, Heaton Chapel, Ringway Repair Albacore, Anson, Battle, Seafox, Swordfish; parts of Albacore, Firefly, Fulmar, Gordon, Halifax, Spearfish, Swordfish; Fulmar mods
Fairfield Aviation Ltd. Odham's Press (Watford), Elstree Repair Audax, Hart, Hector, Hind, Lysander, Master, Wellington
Field Consolidated Aircraft Services Ltd. / Rollason Aircraft Services Ltd. Croydon, Hanworth, Tollerton Repair Beaufighter, Beechcraft, Eagle, Hampden, Harrow, Hereford, Hudson, Hurricane, Oxford, Wellington; modifications to Horsa, Oxford, Wellington; parts of Albemarle, Audax, Battle, Demon, Hampden, Hereford, Hurricane, Oxford, Proctor, Wellington
Folland Aircraft Ltd. Hamble Parts for Beaufighter, Beaufort, Spitfire
General Aircraft Ltd. Hanworth Repair Argus, Beaufighter, Beaufort, Blenheim, Blenheim, Hotspur, Hoverfly, Hurricane, Mustang, Spitfire
Gloster Aircraft Co. Ltd. Hucclecote, Staverton, Stoke Orchard Repair Henley, Meteor; parts of Gladiator
Green Bros Maintenance & repair of target aircraft
Handley Page Ltd. Cricklewood, Radlett Repair Hampden, Harrow, Heyford; parts of Halifax
Handley Page Ltd. York Aircraft Repair Depot [YARD] Repair Halifax; Halifax modifications
Hawker Aircraft Ltd. Brooklands, Kingston upon Thames, Langley Repair Hart, Hind, Hurricane, Tempest, Typhoon
Helliwells Ltd. Walsall Repair Harvard, Hurricane; Harvard modifications
Herts and Essex Aviation Ltd. Broxbourne Repair ATC gliders, Avro Commodore, Desoutter, Magister, Proctor, Puss Moth, Q-6, Taylorcraft, Vega Gull, Whitney Straight
Heston Aircraft Co. Ltd. Harmondsworth (Penguin factory), Heston Repair Spitfires
Lancashire Aircraft Corp Ltd. Burnley, Samlesbury Repair Beaufighter, Beaufort
William Lawrence & Co. Ltd. Colwick Parts of Anson, Hotspur, Tiger Moth
London Midland & Scottish Railway Ltd. Barassie, Derby, Wolverton Repair Hampden, Hereford, Spitfire, Whitley
London Passenger Transport Board Chiswick Parts of Halifax
Marshalls Flying School Ltd. Teversham Repair Albemarle, Anson, Fortress, Gladiator, Harvard, Master, Mosquito, Oxford, Typhoon, Whitley; parts of Anson, Fortress, Gladiator, Hart, Magister, Master, Oxford, Whitley; overhaul Dakota, Mosquito
Martin Hearn Ltd. Hooton Park,
Little Sutton
Repair Anson, ATC gliders, Mosquito
T. McDonald & Sons Balado Bridge, Kirkcaldy Repair Blenheim, Boston, Fulmar, Hudson, Lodestar, Mustang, Tomahawk; parts of Dakota, Stirling, Sunderland, Venture
Morris Motors Ltd. Cowley Repair Hurricane, Magister, Master, Spitfire; parts of Tiger Moth
Morrisons Engineering Co. Ltd. Horsey Toll Repair Hurricane; parts of Wellington
Wm. Mumford Ltd. Billacombe Parts of Blenheim
Newbarn Engineering Co. Ltd. Rochdale Parts of Beaufort
Norbury Joinery & Cabinet Works Ltd. Norbury Repair Horsa, Hotspur
North Eastern Aircraft Components Ltd. Gateshead Parts of Defiant, Oxford
Papworth Industries Ltd. Papworth Everard Repair ATC gliders
Park Ward Co. Ltd. Willesden Parts of Magister, Master
Parker Knoll Ltd. High Wycombe Repair Hotspur
Parnall Aircraft Ltd. Yate Repair Hendy Heck
George Parnall & Co. Ltd. Fishponds Parts of Beaufighter, Beaufort
Percival Aircraft Ltd. Luton Repair Vega Gull, Q-6
Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd. / Miles Aircraft Ltd. Woodley Repair Magister, Mentor
Pilkington Bros. Ltd. Kirk Sandall Parts of Halifax
Portsmouth Aviation Ltd. Farlington, Portsmouth Repair Envoy, Kirby Cadet, Oxford, Puss Moth; parts of Courier, Horsa, Master; Barracuda mods
Pressed Steel Co. Ltd. Cowley Parts of Typhoon
Redwing Aircraft Ltd. Croydon, Thornton Heath, Wolverhampton Repair Blenheim, Lysander, Wallace; parts of Battle, Beaufighter, Beaufort, Blenheim, Defiant, Halifax, Hurricane, Tempest, Typhoon, Wellington
Reid & Sigrist Ltd. Desford Airacobra, Defiant; parts of Harvard, Mitchell
Rollason Aircraft Services Ltd. Croydon Repair Audax, Battle, Demon, Gladiator, Hampden, Harrow, Hart, Hereford, Hurricane, Oxford
Rolls-Royce Ltd. Hucknall Repair Beaufighter, Hurricane; Hurricane conversions
Rootes Securities Ltd. Blythe Bridge, Meir, Shawbury, Speke Repair Blenheim; parts of Halifax
David Rosenfield Ltd. Barton Repair Battle, Fulmar, Hurricane
Saunders-Roe Ltd. Cowes Repair Lerwick, London, Stranraer, Walrus
Scottish Aviation Ltd. Doncaster, Edzell, Greenock, Hendon, Macmerry, Melton Mowbray, Merryfield, Prestwick, Silloth Repair ATC gliders, Battle, Catalina, Lerwick, Liberator, London, Oxford, Proctor, Roc, Skua, Spitfire, Stranraer, Sunderland; parts of Queen Bee
Scottish Motor Traction Co. Ltd. Edzell, Merryfield Repair Corsair, Hellcat, Hudson; parts of Dakota
SEBRO Ltd. Bourn, Cambridge Repair ATC gliders, Bv.222, R3O, Sunderland; parts of Singapore; mods of Short C-class, Hereford, Seafire, Stirling;
Short Bros (Rochester & Bedford) Ltd. Rochester,
South Marston, Swindon
Repair Singapore, Sunderland; parts of Queen Bee, Seaford; Sunderland mods
Short & Harland Ltd. Belfast Parts of Stirling, Sunderland
Shrager Bros Ltd. Edmonton,
Old Warden
Repair Desoutter, Heston Phoenix, Leopard Moth, Magister, Proctor, Q-6, Vega Gull, Whitney Straight; mods for Harvard, Mustang
Slingsby Sailplanes Ltd. Kirbymoorside Repair Hadrian, Hengist
Southern Aircraft (Gatwick) Ltd. Gatwick, Tinsley Repair ATC gliders, Battle, Blenheim, Expeditor, Fairchild, Harvard, Hornet Moth, Moth Minor, Puss Moth, Reliant, Tiger Moth, Vega Gull; parts of Argus, Corsair, Spitfire, Vigilant, Wellington
SS Cars Ltd. Bishop's Tachbrook, Coventry Repair Whitley; parts of Wellington, Whitley
Supermarine (Vickers-Armstrongs) Ltd. Woolston Repair Spitfire, Walrus; parts of Stranraer
Surrey Flying Services Ltd. Hamsey Green, Sanderstead Repair Audax, Battle, Hart, Hornet Moth, Magister, Monospar, Phoenix, Puss Moth
James H. Sutcliffe & Son Ltd. Todmorden Parts of Halifax, Hotspur, Oxford, Tiger Moth
Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Ltd. Mountsorrel, Rearsby, Syston, Thurmaston Repair Auster, Harrow, Hurricane, Taylorcraft, Tiger Moth; parts of Wellington
Tollerton Aircraft Services Ltd. Tollerton Repair Hampden, Harrow, Hereford, Lancaster, Liberator, Manchester
Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd. Brooklands Repair Wellesley, Wellington; parts of Blenheim
Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Chester Repair Wellington
Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Blackpool Repair Wellington
Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd. Castle Bromwich Parts of Spitfire
J.W. Walker & Sons Ltd. Ruislip Unknown
Wallows (Walsall) Ltd. Walsall Parts of Blenheim, Halifax, Hurricane, Mustang, Wellington
Western Airways Ltd. Weston-super-Mare Repair Anson, ATC gliders, Cub, Mohawk, Swallow, Tomahawk
Westland Aircraft Ltd. Ilchester, Yeovil Repair Lysander, Welkin
Wrightways Air Services Ltd. Eccles Repair Q-6, Scion

Summary of operations[edit]

In the period May 1940 to July 1945, CRO had returned a total of 79,000 aircraft to the flight line. At that point, of all the heavy aircraft then flying in the RAF, 36.5% (3,285) had been processed through CRO. Activities continued for several years after the end of World War II.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sturtivant 2007, pp. 87-92
  2. ^ Wright 2010, pp. 170-173
  3. ^ Leaders and Commanders
  4. ^ The Days of Glory - Day 42 - Battle of Britain
  5. ^ Postan 1952, pp. 316-319

Bibliography[edit]

  • Postan, M.M. 1952. History of the Second World War - British War Production. HMSO
  • Sturtivant, Ray and Hamlin, John. 2007. RAF Flying Training and Support Units. Air-Britain ISBN 0-85130-365-X
  • Wright, Peter. "From Scraps to Scrap", Aeromilitaria, December 2010