"A WAR OF MACHINERY”: the British Machine Tool Industry and Arming the Western Front, 1914-1916

Roger Lloyd-Jones, Myrddin John Lewis

Abstract


According to David Lloyd George, Britain’s first Minister of Munitions, World War L “the Great War” was a “war of machinery,” and required unprecedented supplies of ammunition and the machine tools necessary to make them. In the early phase of the conflict, when the importance of machine tools was not fully recognized, a shortage of ammunition on the western front precipitated a military and political crisis, and led to the formation of the Ministry of Munitions. A trade-off between quantity and quality of ammunition shell (the machined outer metal casing) was a product of the Ministry directive to increase output as both makers and users of machine tools came under intense pressure to reach their goals. British engineering achieved huge increases in ammunition output in preparation for the Somme offensive, but the complexities of the supply chain meant that makers and users of machine tools put them to use to make ammunition of a type and quality that was to prove defective.


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