WWII & Gas Turbines
In the late 1930s, in anticipation of potential hostilities which would become World War II, the British government started a re-armament programme and as part of this “Shadow Factories” were built. These were paid for by the government but staffed and run by private companies. Two were run by Rover. One was at Acocks Green, Birmingham and it started operation in 1937 while a second larger one at Solihull started in 1940. Both were employed making aero engines and airframes.
The original main works at Helen Street, Coventry was severely damaged by bombing in 1940 and 1941 and never regained full production.
In early 1940 Rover were approached by the government to support Frank Whittle in developing the gas turbine engine. Whittle’s company, Power Jets had no production facilities and the intention was for Rover to take the design and develop it for mass production. Whittle himself was not pleased by this and did not like design changes made without his approval but the first test engines to the W2B design were built in a disused cotton mill in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, in October 1941. Rolls-Royce took an interest in the new technology and an agreement was reached in 1942 that they would take over the engines and Barnoldswick works and in exchange Rover would get the contract for making Meteor tank engines which actually continued until 1964.