Coventry Ordnance Works
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The company was set up in 1905 by a consortium of British shipbuilding firms John Brown, Yarrow, Cammell Laird and Fairfield with the encouragement of the British government, which wanted a third major arms consortium to compete with the duopoly of Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth, in order to drive down prices.
Initially H.H. Mulliner was the managing director, but after a series of altercations with the Admiralty he was replaced by a retired admiral Sir Reginald Bacon.
The company also opened a factory in Scotstoun, Glasgow in 1910, which made heavy gun mountings. The C.O.W. 37mm gun was the first modern autocannon developed in 1917. The firm also designed the 5.5 inch Naval gun, the highly successful QF 4.5 inch Howitzer, and a 15 inch siege howitzer for the British Army.
The firm struggled in the recession after the end of World War I which affected Britain's arms industry and closed in 1925.
Harland and Wolff, who took over the Scotstoun, Glasgow, works from COW in 1920, converted it for diesel engine manufacture. Little investment was made and the firm had to seek civil engineering contracts away from shipbuilding in order to minimise losses. In 1927 the factory was put on a care and maintenance basis.
The beginning of a national rearmament programme in 1936 prompted the re-commissioning of the works to make gun mountings. After the war, they continued to build naval guns into the late 1960s, building the "standard" 4.5" turrets for the County class destroyers and other classes. Barrels were brought in from Vickers-Armstrongs but in earlier times they were made locally at Beardmores in Parkhead. Work was also switched to the manufacture of hydro-electric plant for the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and then to steel presses for the motor industry, and compressors.
In 1969 the works was sold to Albion Motors, whose main factory had been situated on the opposite side of South Street.
This factory had some of the largest Machine tools in the UK. One, a vertical boring mill had a turntable 36' in diameter, used for turning the turret gear rings. The building had 3 tiers of overhead cranes and could together lift several hundred tons. The building still continues to manufacture automotive parts under the ownership of Albion, now a subsidiary of American Axle.
- COW Biplane a 1912 military aircraft
- The 15-inch Guns of Vanguard, Courageous and Glorious
- Glasgow University Archive Services, photographic collection
- page on C.O.W. gun
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