Siebe Gorman

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Siebe Gorman Aerorlox oxygen rebreather

Siebe Gorman & Company Ltd was a British company that developed diving equipment and breathing equipment and worked on commercial diving and marine salvage projects. The company advertised itself as 'Submarine Engineers'. It was founded by Augustus Siebe (1788 – 15 April 1872), a German-born British engineer chiefly known for his contributions to diving equipment.[1]

Siebe plc started in the 1970s as a continuation of Siebe Gorman when Siebe Gorman started to take over other firms, to mean the new conglomerate to distinguish it from Siebe Gorman's original breathing apparatus and diving gear core business. Siebe plc was once one of the United Kingdom's largest engineering businesses. It was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index but in 1999 it merged with BTR plc to form Invensys. Invensys was taken over by the French multinational Schneider Electric for £3.4 billion in January 2014.


See also Timeline of underwater technology.
  • 1788: Augustus Siebe was born in Saxony in Germany, named Christian Augustus Siebe.[1][2]
    He was educated in Berlin and apprenticed to a brass founder.
  • 1812: He served as an artillery officer at the Battle of Leipzig and narrowly escaped death.
  • 1815: He served as an artillery officer in the Prussian army at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • 1816: After that war he moved to London, England.
    He became a watchmaker, then gunmaker, then instrument maker, and settled at 5 Denmark Street in Soho, London, where he became an engineer.
  • 1819: He started a business as a mechanical engineer at 145 High Holborn, London. He traded as Augustus Siebe and dropped the word "Christian" from his name. Down the years he produced various mechanical devices, not only diving gear.[3]
  • 1819: He married Susannah Gliddon (from Devon).
  • 1819: He produced a breech-loading firearm.
  • 1823: He was awarded a Vulcan medal for a screw tap for thread cutting.
  • 1826: He moved to 5 Denmark Street, London, which he rented.
  • 1830: His daughter Mary Siebe was born. The company, by then trading as Siebe Gorman, developed its first diving helmet.[3]
    (Later, William Augustus Gorman (formerly O'Gorman) (an Irish sea captain) married Mary Siebe.)

Start of involvement in making diving equipment[edit]

Siebe's design, as refined by 1873.
  • 1830: The Deane brothers asked Siebe to make a variation of their smoke helmet design for underwater use.[1] Later they turned to him to produce more helmets for diving operations. Expanding on improvements already made by another engineer, George Edwards, Siebe produced his own design; a helmet fitted to a full length watertight canvas diving suit (standard diving dress). The real success of the equipment was a valve in the helmet.
  • 1831: He bought 5 Denmark Street's leasehold. He lived and worked there for the rest of his life.
  • 1856: He applied for and was given British citizenship.
  • 1868: He bought the freehold of 5 Denmark Street.
  • 1868: He retired because of old age and ill-health; 4 of his 5 sons had died by this time.
  • 1870: Augustus Siebe passed his business to his son Henry Herapath Siebe and to William Augustus Gorman. The business started trading as 'Siebe & Gorman'
  • 15 April 1872: He died at home of chronic bronchitis.
    He was buried at the West Norwood Cemetery.
  • 1876: Siebe & Gorman moved to 17 Mason Street (later renamed Boniface Street), Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth, London.[2]
  • 1878: Henry Fleuss with help from Siebe Gorman designed a practical oxygen rebreather: see Rebreather#History of rebreathers.
  • 1880: The company's name changed to Siebe Gorman & Co.
  • January 1882: Robert Henry Davis (age 11) (1879–1965) joined Siebe Gorman as an office boy. Over the years he learned much and became good at breathing apparatus engineering.
  • 1887: Henry Herapath Siebe died aged 57.
  • 1894: Robert Davis was promoted to General Manager of Siebe Gorman.

20th century[edit]

  • September 1900: Robert Davis married Margaret Tyrrell.
  • 1901: Robert Davis's and Margaret Tyrrell's first son Robert William Gorman Davis was born.
    Over the years Robert William Gorman Davis trained as an engineer and later joined the company.
  • 14 Feb 1904: William Augustus Gorman suddenly died aged 69. (He was buried at Claygate Church in Surrey.)
    The company became a new private company 'Siebe Gorman & Co. Ltd.'.
  • 1905: The Admiralty set up the first Deep Diving Committee.
    • 1907: The resulting naval diving tables appeared. The Admiralty approached Siebe Gorman to help develop better deep-diving gear.
  • 1907: The Siebe Gorman Proto industrial rebreather starts to be made.
    The Siebe Gorman Salvus and the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus appeared later.
  • 1930: The Admiralty set up the second Deep Diving Committee.
  • 1932; King George V knighted Robert Davis, largely for inventing the Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus.
  • 1938: Robert Davis, needing more room for factory expansion, bought 6 acres at Tolworth near Chessington in Surrey. The new building on it was named Neptune Works, on Davis Road.


  • 1938/39: Siebe Gorman was one of a number of British companies to receive contracts for the manufacture of tens of thousands of gas masks including the British Civilian Duty Respirator (for Civil Defence & related use) and the Respirator, Anti-Gas, Civilian Duty (for general public use).
  • May 1941: Siebe Gorman's factory in Lambeth was bombed during World War II. Massive loss of company and personal historical records.
  • 1941: The company, already planning to leave London, moved to Chessington, Surrey and resumed manufacturing.
  • June 1943: Siebe Gorman were contracted by the 79th Armoured Division (United Kingdom) to design specialist apparatus for use by the Duplex Drive Tank crews. Known as the Amphibious Tank Escape Apparatus (ATEA) the equipment was fitted with a protosorb canister and enabled it to be used as a re-breather for up to 7 minutes. Tank crews would strap the inflated ATEA to their chests, and in the event of sinking, would fit the mouth piece and nose clips. The equipment was used extensively in training, during which crews perfected its operation in a water-filled cistern as well as on a submerged tank. No doubt it contributed to the saving of many lives especially on D Day where 35% of the tanks that swam towards the Normandy shore sunk due to the poor sea conditions. 1200 men were trained prior to D Day using the ATEA, and a further 300 for River Crossing.[4][5]

After WWII[edit]

  • 1948: Siebe Gorman was making aqualungs of the type nicknamed 'Tadpoles'.
  • around 1950: Peak production of standard diving dress. After this, diving technological development in the USA more and more reduced Siebe Gorman's business, which was halved by the early 1960s.
  • 1951: Birmingham University gave Robert Davis an honorary degree.
  • 1952: Siebe Gorman became a limited company. Robert Davis became its managing director.
  • 1952: Marconi and Siebe Gorman collaborated to produce an underwater television camera system.
  • 1953: Some sport divers find how to make an aqualung regulator out of a Calor gas demand regulator, and spread this knowledge, thus bypassing the naval/industrial monopoly on making usable underwater breathing apparatus.
  • 1954: Around now Siebe Gorman started making Cousteau-Gagnan-type aqualungs, and diving suits for commercial and sport diving.
  • 1955 or after: Siebe Gorman stops making standard diving dress.
  • 1959: The Fairey Aviation Company took over Siebe Gorman.
  • 1960's: Siebe Gorman started making scuba gear aimed at the public market (sometimes using the tradenames Essgee and Essjee), although they had made it earlier for work divers and the Navy. They also continued to make diving bell equipment and pressure chambers.
  • 1961: Siebe Gorman takes over the diving gear maker firm Heinke.[6] A few helmets were given the tag of "Siebe-Heinke", but eventually the name Heinke completely disappeared.
  • 29 March 1965: Robert Davis died at home, aged 94.
  • 1967-8: Siebe Gorman stops using the tradename 'Siebe Heinke'.
    About now, Siebe plc started as a continuation of Siebe Gorman when Siebe Gorman started to take over other firms, to mean the new conglomerate to distinguish it from Siebe Gorman's original breathing apparatus and diving gear core business.
  • 1975: Siebe Gorman moves to Cwmbran in Wales in 1975 and concentrates on firefighter's breathing equipment.
  • 1979: Siebe Gorman & Co Ltd v Barclays Bank Ltd [1979] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 142, a well known UK insolvency law case about book debts in debentures.[7][8]
  • 1995 October: Siebe Gorman still had their premises at Cwmbran.
  • 1998: Siebe plc sold North Safety Products (and Siebe Gorman with it) to Norcross.[9]
  • End of 1998: Norcross closed the plant at Cwmbran and transfers production of breathing apparatus to Dukinfield in Manchester, where they still had capability to make oxygen rebreathers, but did not make or overhaul any there.
  • End of 1999: Norcross sold what had been Siebe Gorman as a going concern to an Iranian entrepreneur Parvis Moradifor. The company was renamed Air Master Technology Limited (AMtec) from the name of the famous Siebe Gorman breathing apparatus.

21st century[edit]

  • 2000: Air Master Technology relocated to Swindon in Wiltshire.
  • 2001: Air Master Technology ceased trading.
  • 2001: Parvis Moradifor sells the assets and the name Siebe Gorman to a Malaysian concern, who with a factory in Malaysia, still make breathing apparatus and parts for civilian and military use, including an industrial breathing set under the name Siebe Gorman.[10] their name is "Siebe Gorman Sdn. Bhd." - ref.


The Company was notable for developing the "closed" diving helmet of the standard diving dress and associated equipment. As the helmet was sealed to the diving suit, it was watertight, unlike the previous "open" helmet systems. The new equipment was safer and more efficient and revolutionised underwater work from the 1830s.

Colonel Charles Pasley, leader of the Royal Navy team that used Siebe's suit on the wreck of the HMS Royal George suggested the helmet should be detachable from the corselet, giving rise to the typical standard diving dress which revolutionised underwater civil engineering, underwater salvage, commercial diving and naval diving.[1]

Standard diving suit equipment was their main manufacturing operation, producing diving helmets in copper and brass. They also made frogman's equipment for the British armed forces during World War 2, and later, sport scuba gear. See makes of rebreather.

Siebe Gorman and Co manufactured 12 bolt, 8 bolt, 6 bolt, 3 bolt, 2 bolt, no bolt, flange, and 12 bolt square corselet standard diving helmets.

Heinke Ltd in London also made diving gear and had connections with Siebe Gorman.[11]

Siebe Gorman product list[edit]

Rebreather equipment[edit]

This is a partial list of some of their rebreather equipment covering military and civilian, diving and non-diving. Taken from Oxygen Rebreather Database, and afterwards edited.

Other items[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Acott, C. (1999). "JS Haldane, JBS Haldane, L Hill, and A Siebe: A brief resume of their lives.". South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society Journal. 29 (3). ISSN 0813-1988. OCLC 16986801. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  2. ^ a b pages 16 etseq, The International History of Diving History vol 4 no. 1, publ. Historical Diving Society
  3. ^ a b Invensys: About us
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Thurston, Susan (2004). "The first Broome recompression chamber 1914–2004". SPUMS J. 34 (2): 94–100. Retrieved 2015-03-03. 
  7. ^ Addleshaw Goddard (2004). "Siebe Gorman "is wrong"" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  8. ^ "Spectrum Plus - Siebe Gorman & Co. Ltd - Barclays Bank - Agnew Vs. Commissioner of Inland Revenue - Re Brumark". law-now. 2004. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  9. ^ Siebe confirms sale of North Safety Products business Auto Channel, 6 October 1998
  10. ^ url=
  11. ^ "Charles Edwin Heinke". 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  12. ^ "Photos Stelox Rebreather". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  13. ^ "Photos Siebe Gorman Novus". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  14. ^ "Photos Amphibian Mark I". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  15. ^ "Photos ATEA". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  16. ^ "Photos Universal Rebreather". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  17. ^ "Photos DSEA". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  18. ^ "Photos FireOX". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  19. ^ "Photos Fleuss and Davis until 1905". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  20. ^ "Photos Individual Scrubber". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  21. ^ "Photos Minox". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  22. ^ "Photos mine recovery suit". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  23. ^ "Photos Oxylithe". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  24. ^ "Photos P-Party Dutch Configuration". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  25. ^ a b Quick, D. (1970). "A History Of Closed Circuit Oxygen Underwater Breathing Apparatus.". Royal Australian Navy, School of Underwater Medicine. RANSUM-1-70. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  26. ^ a b "Photos Proto". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  27. ^ "Photos Savox". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  28. ^ "Photos Sladen Suit". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  29. ^ "Photos Salvus". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  30. ^ "Photos Watchkeepersuit". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  31. ^ "Crudesco's gasmask". Crudesco Sdn Bhd. Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  32. ^ Bayliss, L E; Kerridge, Phyllis M Tookey (January 1935). "Recent developments in physical instruments for biological purposes". Journal of Scientific Instruments. XII no.1: 4–5. doi:10.1088/0950-7671/12/1/301. Retrieved 14 October 2016. 

External links for Siebe Gorman[edit]