20mm Hispano Cannon
Early Spitfires had eight machine guns but they weren’t very effective against large, armoured bombers. Spitfires were quickly adapted to also carry cannons. They fired a 20mm x 110mm shell that exploded on impact.
There were early problems fitting cannons to Spitfires. They had to be angled on their sides to fit into the wing, but this caused them to jam. The new weapons were so unreliable that the squadron testing them asked for their old Spitfires back! By August 1940 a more reliable system of fitting the cannons and feeding them ammunition was introduced.
The Hispano Cannon was originally developed by the French company Hispano-Suiza then licensed to be built in the United Kingdom. Production of cannons was dispersed in ‘shadow factories’ to reduce the threat of air raids. The minutes of Newcastle Borough Council Electricity Committee 13 May 1940 record that a factory for the Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd was under construction in Lower Milehouse Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme, to which new electricity supply was required. The factory was operational by the 4th quarter of 1940.
In 1944 Rolls Royce Ltd leased B.S.A factory in Milehouse Lane, assembling a workforce of 2,700 to work on the development of jet engines. Rolls Royce terminated this lease in 1945 when the war ended.
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