Birmingham Grand Central platforms: dingy polluted subterranean canyons

The University of Birmingham has a department dedicated to railways which has just won a national award for its work into railways and how to make them faster but safer

Our Birmingham

Reading Christian Wolmar’s article:‘Rail’s dirty secret’, recalled last year’s  questionon this site: ‘How many lungs and hearts will be damaged by air pollution before action is taken?’

There is concern about the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central (New Street) platforms experienced by travellers like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system for rail and waterways.

Professor Thorne’s student monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

Research conducted by Professor John Thorne (Birmingham) found almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform.

The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”. Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that…

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In this week when Coventry was named UK City of Culture 2021, we recall the Birmingham Blitz in 1940.

#Birmingham Blitz 1940

keithbracey

An account of the Birmingham Blitz by Brummie Frank Hiley including the bombing of the BSA in Small Heath

It is the night of November 19th 1940.

The night shift has commenced at a large munitions works and men and women to the number of over a thousand have just entered on the task of making one of the vital parts of our war machines.

Work swings along merrily; the machines sing out their ceaseless tune joined by the strains of the latest dance tune from some budding crooner, everyone content on turning out the most they can for the defence of our country, and the earnings their work will bring at the weekend.

While machines are doing their part of the work, I pause to look around. Some of my fellow workers look quite happy tonight, cracking a joke with those next to them, others look troubled, even sad…

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In this week when Coventry was named UK City of Culture 2021, we recall the Birmingham Blitz in 1940.

An account of the Birmingham Blitz by Brummie Frank Hiley including the bombing of the BSA in Small Heath

It is the night of November 19th 1940.

The night shift has commenced at a large munitions works and men and women to the number of over a thousand have just entered on the task of making one of the vital parts of our war machines.

Work swings along merrily; the machines sing out their ceaseless tune joined by the strains of the latest dance tune from some budding crooner, everyone content on turning out the most they can for the defence of our country, and the earnings their work will bring at the weekend.

While machines are doing their part of the work, I pause to look around. Some of my fellow workers look quite happy tonight, cracking a joke with those next to them, others look troubled, even sad, perhaps bad news received of some loved one. I will ask them later on I think, for the night shift is young yet, only 7.15pm- all the night to go.

But listen, there goes the siren, the signal that Jerry planes are somewhere within striking distance.

Fellow workers look at each other; some chaff about it, some sneer at it, some take it to heart and look troubled about it.

Hundreds of workers at once make their way to the shelters, but others like myself just take it as the siren, just the same siren we have heard scores of times in the past nights, and continue with our work. Perhaps they will be driven off before they reach us, perhaps this, perhaps that, but there is work to do and money to be earned, so we just carry on.

Some workers shout over remarks, one saying, “Come early tonight and see us”, another more serious says, “Looks like a bad night coming this early.”

Then we see a steady stream of workers passing down the gangway, coats and masks in hand, making for the shelters, some taking it slowly, others hurrying for they have four flights of stone steps to descend before making the four minute journey to the shelters outside the factory.

We chaff some as they pass with such remarks as “Fellow” or “Mind you don’t get hurt”, but they all pass into the night air with one thought- safety.

After they have all gone, we who are left get down to work again, but not for long, for as the clock shows 7.30pm the danger signal goes. Planes are now overhead, dropping incendiary bombs and flares around the factory, so everyone must make a dash for it now.

Some wait for nothing and run with all haste for those four flights of stairs, but others like myself wait to collect coat, mask and other belongings, but by now all lights have been switched off at the main, and we are left to find our way to the stairs in total darkness.

We reach the stairs and I feel for my flashlight to show us the first few steps, for now I have my partner of every other night raid we have had. Will it work? I wonder, for I have often said I would throw it over some hedge, but tonight it is on its best behaviour and gives enough light to enable my pal Charlie and myself to get down those stairs. For old Charlie, a grand old warrior of 65 years, cannot see at all in the dark and depends on me for guidance. He was always inwardly afraid of the raids but tried to show pluck and fortitude. With a slight limp and snow-white hair he was affectionately known to us all as “old Charlie”.

We are now at the foot of the stairs, but too late now to go outside to the shelters. Planes are circling round overhead, we can hear the thud of anti-aircraft guns, so we go into the basement, a place we have been to so often for shelter. A very long oblong building, that ran under the four floors overhead, each floor containing some hundreds of tons of machinery. Round the basement, and down the sides of the gangways wooden forms have been placed for us to rest on, and here and there hurricane lamps gave out a glimmer of light that enabled us to find our seats, without knocking too much skin off our shins. Strange how everyone seemed to go to the same seat on every air raid night, the same faces in the same places.

There is a strange hush in the semi-darkness, as we all talk about the prospect of a long or short air raid tonight. We can hear thuds from outside and wonder whether they are guns or bombs. Women can be heard to say, they hope their children will be alright and men hope their wives and families will be kept safe and sound. Some start talking and laughing, some are quiet, sort of have a hunch that anything might happen on such a night as this. Some start to eat, some sing for over in one corner an accordion is playing the latest tunes. Myself, I sit and talk to Old Charlie and another man on our seat that I do not know. Over and above everything there is a strange tone that you can almost feel. Someone calls out to a pal to ask the time, he is told it is now five minutes to eight. Some now settle down to go to sleep, others sit and think- Old Charlie does that. I settle myself on the form between my two companions and listen to the accordion, guns are still going, planes still rumbling overhead.

Then comes a dull thud, and bright lights stab the darkness for a second, then a rumbling noise, as though the whole building is being crushed in a pair of huge pinchers. The one thing I had always said would never happen had happened. A bomb had hit the outside wall and the whole building had collapsed like a pack of cards. Hundreds of tons of machinery had descended on us.

What happened next I hardly know, for I must have been knocked out by a blow on the head. How long I was unconscious I do not know, but perhaps not long, for I came round to find that my two companions had been killed and crushed beside me.

I then took stock of myself, and was surprised to find that I had nothing broken, but one foot was held fast by something or other. I began to wonder if it was crushed and made frantic efforts to get it free, but it must have taken best part of an hour to do so for I was hemmed in on all sides and above my head by a solid wall and roof of machinery and concrete and brickwork that had come out from the floors above us. Having got my foot free and finding it was only strained a little, I wriggled and twisted from the form to a small space on the floor, that looked like an ordinary fireplace and about as large. How this small space came to be left clear near me, must have been the hand of providence. Men and women were shouting out in agony for help, and I started to shout my loudest to help them.

I noticed that a girder had come down from above and crushed my two companions, but that the curve of it had just cleared me, and held up the other debris from crushing me. What an escape but escape from what, I wonder, for I am in a living tomb. Fear takes hold of me, and I join my shouts again with those poor wounded and dying, but little did realise the depth of the ruins above us. No one from outside could hear our cries.

Then I noticed that a fire had started near my feet and was starting to burn furiously. This increased my fright and fear. No escape now I thought, while the cries of the injured and dying were all around me. Some were offering prayers for their wives and children in the future, for they knew they would never see the outside world again, neither did I expect to at that time. I still shouted louder, louder, but could get no reply.

I sat there watching that fire, wondering how long it would be before everything around me would burn, how long? I now notice that a machine has crashed down, has stood up on end, forming a small arch under which I wriggled and twisted. So that I felt somewhat safe from anything that may slip and fall from above me. But that fire, I see now that it is burning up that form on which I sat, and that my two companions were starting to burn. The sight sickened me and increased my frantic shouts for help, for by now there were few shouts from the others. Dead by now, I thought, how long shall I last?

The smoke begins to get down my throat. Then I feel a trickle of water coming from above, and I realise that they are trying to put out fires above.

What shall I do?

I think of Margaret, and wonder what she will do when they tell her I am gone, I now offer up prayers as hard as I can pray for both Margaret and myself.

My boot now catches fire for I cannot get my legs back far enough from that fire and put it out.

What’s the use, I ask, shall I bang my head on something and let the fire set me off, at least I shall not feel it then. Other parts of my clothes catch fire and I become frantic in my efforts to put them out, for I have no room to turn about. Then I decided I must keep calm and use my head, for I notice the smoke from the fire is commencing to blow away from me, and the air gets a bit clearer. So I think if I can keep under the machine the fire will keep burning away from me. This calms me a bit and I decide to have a smoke if I can. I still have my pipe, and after a lot of twisting I get my tobacco and matches from my pocket. The tobacco is fairly dry, although by now I am soaked through and through by the water from above. I fill my pipe but my matches are damp, so I have to hold two by a hot cinder until they flicker up and I manage to light my pipe. Ah, that was better, one bit of comfort.

Water was now beginning to collect on the concrete floor on which I was half sitting, half lying, and I began to have thoughts of getting my death of cold, so I pulled loose pieces of concrete towards me and wriggled them underneath me to sit on, although water was now dripping off my trousers. I see now my two companions are burning up and the form they were on has become dust, poor chaps, but they could not feel it, thank God.

I now become conscious of a voice talking to me, and although I could see no one, I somehow felt the presence of my dad around me. My dad who had passed from this earth some months before. Something seemed to comfort me in a way I cannot describe, but his presence was there, and although never a believer in spiritualism, I would have believed anything just then. I even began to think I should be saved now, although how I could not see.

I began to shout again, help, help, help but there was no response. I realised I now must lie there and wait, but for how long? Could I keep my senses until someone got to me? Yes, I made my mind up I would, and so I reclined there thinking, thinking hundreds of things, mostly of wife and home. That unseen voice was still near me, and I almost felt I had company.

The silence was almost terrifying, but my big concern was watching that fire, it seemed now that I had been down there for hours and hours, so I start to shout again, anything to break that awful silence- but I got no response. I say my prayers again. At this time I cannot keep a limb still, shivering from cold and wet, although I can feel the heat from the fire on one side.

Time drags on, so I start shouting again. After a while I fancy I can hear an answer to my cries. I become frantic now and shout still louder. I listen and can faintly hear someone answering me, but they sound miles away. After a while I make out they are asking me where I was before the crash. I shout out my position from the outside wall near the canal and I can hear them telling me to hang on and keep up. So my prayers are answered I think, I am in touch with outside.

Then I can hear rumbling noises above me, and I realise they are moving wreckage to get at me. I wait. It seems hours. Why don’t they hurry? Little did I know until afterwards the amount of debris they had to move. I was now excited and still kept shouting to them, and then I can hear them shouting down a small hole, almost over me. They ask me if I am injured or crushed, I tell them I am alright except for the fire, but that is the first they know about a fire, they say.

They start to burn away metal and machinery until they can see the light from my torch, that torch I have always wanted to throw away. After a while they get a large hole over me and ask me if I can get up to it, but I have to tell them I cannot stand up, I am pinned down. They burn away more metal, and then drop a rope down, and by holding onto this they pull me up and up until my head is through the hole, then by grabbing my arms I am dragged through the hole to freedom.

Never did freedom and safety seem so sweet as this moment.

They patted my back and congratulated me on my escape. I shook their hands and found myself crying with joy and I felt they were crying too. They had won a victory over death. I thank them with all my heart.

Planes are still overhead, and bombs are dropping as they place me on a stretcher and carry me off to a dressing station. I was now in a bad state, shaking all over from shock and exposure.

Arriving at the dressing station I was taken in charge by a doctor and nurses, all my rags ripped off and life rubbed into me, with hot towels and given a hot drink. I asked the time, and was told it was now a quarter to six. I had been down there nine hours, it seemed more like ninety to me.

The doctor says I am to be taken to hospital, but I have enough life in me to tell him there was no hospital or nurse who could look after me better than my wife. I was going home.

Then we hear the all clear going, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, now they could look for other survivors. Would they find any? I thought it was doubtful.

Then they bring in another man but the poor devil is put of his mind. Then they take me home in an ambulance in the half- light. The ambulance man opened the door and informed me that my house had been bombed as well as me. Although my back was almost broken I jumped out of the ambulance and after a quick glance at broken windows and doors, I ran down the house shouting at the top of my voice “Margaret, Margaret” I got no answer and this increased my fears. I fled to the back door, which was burst off, and shouted outside “Margaret, Margaret, Margaret” She had been taken next door and hearing my cries came running round to me.

We clung to each other, we cried together, crying with joy and fear. As we clung together we could each tell that we had been through a terrible night. Two souls with a single thought, thank God you are safe.

The fire was lit and Margaret dressed me in warm clothes, attended to my cuts and burns, quite forgetting her own feelings from her ordeal. What a nurse, what a spirit, a true Briton with true English pluck. I thank her for all she did for me.

We then sat down and told each other our experiences of the night, and with tears of joy and thankfulness we thanked God for sparing us to each other. So ended a night we shall never forget, and to anyone who reads this little story I would say “Never give up hope, you die with despair”

What of my fellow workers? I was told later by the manager of the works that out of eighty three who were sheltering in that basement, eighty one had passed out of this world. Poor souls, poor old Charlie- he died doing his duty.

What saved me? Perhaps my prayers, perhaps that spirit around me. Still here I am.

The author of this story sadly died many years ago. The story was sent to Warwick Library by a friend of his who wished to make his experiences available to others. Mr Hiley worked in the BSA small arms factory in Armoury Road in Small Heath, Birmingham.

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The engineering genius of Frederick Lanchester in homage to Coventry winning UK City of Culture 2021

Birmingham engineering genius FW Lanchester also made cars in Coventry and Lanchester Polytechnic, now Coventry University was named after him. Well done Coventry on winning UK City of Culture 2021

keithbracey

A celebration of Birmingham motor and aeronautic engineering genius Frederick Lanchester after whom Coventry’s Lanchester Polytechnic was named and who invented the carburretor and made the very first four wheel drive motor vehicle.

Near the end of 1888, Lanchester went to work for the Forward Gas Engine Company of Saltley, Birmingham as assistant works manager. His contract of employment included a clause stating that any technical improvements that he made would be the intellectual property of the company. Lanchester wisely struck this out before signing. This action was prescient, for in 1889 he invented and patented a Pendulum Governor to control engine speeds, for which he received a royalty of ten shillings for each one fitted to a Forward Engine. In 1890 he patented a Pendulum Accelerometer, for recording the acceleration and braking of road and rail vehicles.

After the death of the current works manager, Lanchester was promoted to…

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The engineering genius of Frederick Lanchester in homage to Coventry winning UK City of Culture 2021

A celebration of Birmingham motor and aeronautic engineering genius Frederick Lanchester after whom Coventry’s Lanchester Polytechnic was named and who invented the carburretor and made the very first four wheel drive motor vehicle.

Near the end of 1888, Lanchester went to work for the Forward Gas Engine Company of Saltley, Birmingham as assistant works manager. His contract of employment included a clause stating that any technical improvements that he made would be the intellectual property of the company. Lanchester wisely struck this out before signing. This action was prescient, for in 1889 he invented and patented a Pendulum Governor to control engine speeds, for which he received a royalty of ten shillings for each one fitted to a Forward Engine. In 1890 he patented a Pendulum Accelerometer, for recording the acceleration and braking of road and rail vehicles.

After the death of the current works manager, Lanchester was promoted to his job. He then designed a new gas engine of greater size and power than any produced by the company before. The engine was a vertical one with horizontal, opposed poppet valves for inlet and exhaust. The engine had a very low compression ratio, but was very economical to operate.

In 1890 Lanchester patented a self-starting device for gas engines. He subsequently sold the rights for his invention to the Crossley Gas Engine Company for a handsome sum.

He rented a small workshop next to the Forward Company’s works and used this for experimental work of his own. In this workshop, he produced a small vertical single cylinder gas engine of 3 bhp (2.2 kW), running at 600 rpm. This was coupled directly to a dynamo, which Lanchester used to light the Company’s office and part of the factory.

Petrol engines

Lanchester began to find the conflict between his job as works manager and his research work irksome. Therefore, in 1893, he resigned his job in favour of his younger brother George. At about the same time, he produced a second engine type similar in design to his previous one but operating on benzene at 800 rpm. An important part of his new engine was the revolutionary carburettor, for mixing the fuel and air correctly. His invention was known as a wick carburettor, because fuel was drawn into a series of wicks, from where it was vapourised. He patented this invention in 1905.

Lanchester installed his new petrol engine in a flat-bottomed launch, which the engine drove via a stern paddle wheel. Lanchester built the launch in the garden of his home in Olton, Warwickshire. The boat was launched at Salter’s slipway in Oxford in 1904, and was the first motorboat built in Britain.

Cars and Lanchester

Having put a petrol engine in a boat, the next logical step was to use it for road transport. Lanchester set about designing a four-wheeled vehicle to be driven by a petrol engine. He designed a new petrol engine of 5 bhp (3.7 kW), with two crankshafts rotating in opposite directions, for exemplary smoothness, and air cooling by way of vanes mounted on the flywheel.There was a revolutionary epicyclic gearbox (years before Henry Ford adopted it) giving two forward speeds plus reverse, and which drove the rear wheels via chains. With a walnut body, it seated three, side by side. (By contrast, Rudolf Egg’s tricycle had a 3 hp (2.2 kW) 402 cc {24½ in 3) de Dion-Bouton single and was capable of 40 km/h {25 mph}, and Léon Bollée’s trike a 1.9 kW {2.5 hp} 650 cc (40 in 3) engine of his own design, capable of over 50 km/h {30 mph}.

Lanchester’s car was completed in 1895 and given its first test run in 1896, and proved to be unsatisfactory, being underpowered and having transmission problems.

Lanchester designed a new 8 hp (6 kW) 2,895 cc (177 in 3) air-cooled engine with two horizontally opposed cylinders, still with two crankshafts. He also re-designed the epicyclic gearbox and combined it with the engine. A driveshaft connected the gearbox to a live axle. The new engine and transmission were fitted to the original 1895 car.

Lanchester had relocated his business to larger workshops in Ladywood Road, Fiveways, Birmingham as work on the car progressed and had also sold his house to help finance the cost of his research. A second car was then built with the same engine and transmission but with Lanchester’s own design of cantilever suspension. This was completed in 1898 and won a Gold Medal for its design and performance at the Automobile Exhibition and Trials at Richmond. It became known as the Gold Medal Phaeton.

In 1898, Lanchester designed a water-cooled version of his 8 bhp (6.0 kW) engine, which was fitted to a boat, driving a propeller. In 1900 the Gold Medal Phaeton was entered for the first Royal Automobile Club 1,000 Miles Trial and completed the course successfully after one mechanical failure en route.

Lanchester Engine Company[edit]
In December 1899 Lanchester and his brothers created the Lanchester Engine Company in order to manufacture cars that could be sold to the public. A factory was acquired in Montgomery Street, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, known as the Armourer Works. In his new factory, Lanchester designed a new ten horsepower twin cylinder engine. He decided to use a worm drive transmission and designed a machine to cut the worm gears. He patented this machine in 1905 and it continued for 25 years to produce all of the Lanchester worm gears.

He also introduced the use of splined shafts and couplings in place of keys and key ways, another innovation that he patented. The back axle had roller bearings and Lanchester designed the machines to make these. His car was designed with the engine placed between the two front seats rather than at the front, and also had a side mounted tiller rather than a steering wheel. The transmission also included a system similar to modern disc brakes that clamped the clutch disc for braking, rather than using a separate system as in most cars.

The new 10 hp (7.5 kW) car appeared in 1901 and remained in production until 1905, with only minor design modifications. He became a friend of Rudyard Kipling and would send him experimental models to test. In 1905, Lanchester produced a 20 hp (14.9 kW) four-cylinder engine, and in 1906 he produced a 28 hp (20.9 kW) six-cylinder engine.

Sir Henry Royce had already tackled the problem of crankshaft torsional oscillation and consequent vibration in straight-6 engines, Lanchester analysed the problem scientifically and invented the torsional crankshaft vibration damper as a solution to the problem of engine balance.

His design, patented in 1907, used a secondary flywheel coupled to the end of the crankshaft with a viscous clutch.

At around the same time Lanchester also patented a harmonic balancer to cancel out the unbalanced secondary forces in a four-cylinder engine, using two balance weights rotating at twice crankshaft speed in opposite directions.

The Lanchester Engine Company sold about 350 cars of various designs between 1900 and 1904, when they became bankrupt due to the incompetence of the Board of Directors. It was immediately reformed as The Lanchester Motor Company. During this period he also experimented with fuel injection, turbochargers, added steering wheels in 1907 and invented the accelerator pedal to help control engine operation, which previously would not cease if the operator had problems. He invented (or was the first to use) detachable wire wheels, bearings that were pressure-fed with oil, stamped steel pistons, piston rings, hollow connecting rods, the torsional vibration damper for 6-cylinder engines, and the harmonic balancer for 4-cylinder designs.

Eventually Lanchester became disillusioned with the activities of the company’s directors, and in 1910 resigned as general manager, becoming their part-time consultant and technical adviser. His brothers, George and Frank, assumed technical and administrative responsibility for the company.

Daimler and Lanchester

In 1909 Lanchester became a technical consultant for the Daimler Company where he became involved in a number of engineering projects including the Daimler-Knight engine, variants of which powered the petrol-electric KPL bus and the Daimler-Renard Road Train, and the first British heavy tanks of World War I and powered all Daimler cars from 1909 to the mid 1930s winning in 1909 the coveted RAC Dewar Trophy.

Daimler-Knight engines

Working with Daimler in Coventry, the American inventor Charles Knight had obtained a British patent for his modified Knight engine on 6 June 1908, and in September 1908 Daimler announced the first 4-cylinder Daimler-Knight engine a double sleeve-valve design developed from Knight’s 1904 patents.

Daimler had put all its resources into this “rather unsatisfactory engine” (according to Harry Ricardo), but although Lanchester continued to develop and work on the design, “he had realised that it was a forlorn hope from the start.”[20]

Knight Peiper Lanchester Bus

The hybrid petrol-electric KPL (Knight-Pieper-Lanchester) bus used a pair of 4-cylinder, 12 h.p. (R.A.C. rating) Daimler-Knight engines each coupled to a dynamotor driving one of the rear wheels, using a patent of Henri Pieper.

The bus was announced in June 1910 but the Tilling-Stevens company (an associate of the London General Omnibus Company) threatened a patent infringement action, and it was withdrawn in May 1911 after only 10 buses had been made.

Lanchester and the Daimler-Renard Road Train

Daimler began importing the Renard Road Train in February 1907. Daimler fitted a number of four-cylinder ‘pre-Knight’ engines in the Road Train.

Lanchester’s development work resulted in a 75/80 hp Daimler-Knight 6-cylinder engine for the Daimler-Renard tractor unit in 1910.[28] The Birmingham Small Arms company (BSA) bought Daimler in 1910, and Lanchester became consultant engineer to the new parent company.

Daimler-Foster tractors

A larger 100 hp 6-cylinder engine with twin crankshafts each driving a sleeve-valve appeared in January 1912, fitted to the larger of two Daimler-Foster agricultural tractors (‘Agritractors’) made in conjunction with William Foster & Co. of Lincoln.

According to Harry Ricardo, the duplication of the whole of the valve operating mechanism involved excessive mechanical complication and introduced grave difficulties in the way of mechanical synchronization.

Lanchester designed a new cylinder head for sleeve-valve engines and patented it with Daimler in February 1913. Gaining an extra 5 hp by April 1913, the 105 hp Daimler-Knight engine (coupled with the tractor’s massive transmission designed by William Tritton) powered the Daimler-Foster Artillery Tractor, the No. 1 Lincoln Machine, Little Willie, and the British Mark I-IV tanks during World War I.

Lanchester’s contract with Daimler was terminated after the Wall Street Crash of 1929; the Lanchester Motor Company’s overdraft was also withdrawn, forcing immediate liquidation of its assets. BSA group, the owners of Daimler since 1910, completed the purchase of the Lanchester company in January 1931 and moved production to Radford, Coventry.

In honour of his work in Coventry Lanchester Polytechnic was named after Frederick William Lanchester in 1970 before becoming Coventry University in 1992.

Lanchester and his work on Aeronautics

Lanchester began to study aeronautics seriously in 1892, eleven years before the first successful powered flight. Whilst crossing the Atlantic on a voyage to the United States, Lanchester studied the flight of herring gulls, seeing how they were able to use motionless wings to catch up-currents of air. He measured various birds to see how the centre of gravity compared with the centre of support.

As a result of his deliberations, Lanchester, eventually formulated his circulation theory of flight. This is the basis of aerodynamics and the foundation of modern aerofoil theory. In 1894 he tested his theory on a number of models.

In 1897 he presented a paper entitled “The soaring of birds and the possibilities of mechanical flight” to the Physical Society, but it was rejected, being too advanced for its time. Lanchester realised that powered flight required an engine with a much greater power-to-weight ratio than any existing engine. He proposed to design and build such an engine, but was advised that no one would take him seriously.

Lanchester was discouraged by the attitude to his aeronautical theory, and concentrated on automobile development for the next ten years. In 1906 he published the first part of a two-volume work, Aerial Flight, dealing with the problems of powered flight (Lanchester 1906).

In it, he developed a model for the vortices that occur behind wings during flight, which included the first full description of lift and drag. His book was not well received in England, but created interest in Germany where the scientist Ludwig Prandtl mathematically confirmed the correctness of Lanchester’s vortex theory. In his second volume, Lanchester turned his attention to aircraft stability, Aerodonetics (Lanchester 1908), developing his phugoid theory which contained a description of oscillations and stalls. During this work he outlined the basic layout used in most aircraft since then. Lanchester’s contribution to aeronautical science was not recognised until the end of his life.

In 1909 Herbert Henry Asquith’s Royal Advisory Committee on Aeronautics was established, and Lanchester was appointed a member. Lanchester guessed correctly that aircraft would play an increasingly important part in warfare, unlike the military command which envisioned warfare as continuing much the same way it had in the past.

The same year, 1909, Lanchester patented contra-rotating propellers.

Lanchester’s Power Laws

Lanchester was particularly interested in predicting the outcome of aerial battles. In 1914, before the start of World War I, he published his ideas on aerial warfare in a series of articles in Engineering. They were published in book form in 1916 as Aircraft in Warfare: the Dawn of the Fourth Arm (Lanchester 1916), and included a description of a series of differential equations that are known now as Lanchester’s Power Laws.

These laws described how two forces would attract each other in combat, and demonstrated that the ability of modern weapons to operate at long ranges dramatically changed the nature of combat—a force that was twice as large had been twice as powerful in the past, but now it was four times, the square of the quotient.

Lanchester’s Laws were originally applied practically in the United States to study logistics, where they developed into operations research (OR) (operational research in UK usage). OR techniques are now widely used, perhaps most so for business.

The post-war company

After the war, the Lanchester Company introduced the more conventional Forty engine, a rival for the Rolls-Royce 40/50 hp; it was joined in 1924 by an overhead cam 21 hp (RAC Rating) six cylinder engine.

In 1921 Lanchester was the first company to export left-hand drive cars. Tinted glass was also introduced on these cars for the first time. A 4440 cc straight eight engine was introduced at the 1928 Southport Rally, again with overhead cams: it proved to be the last “real” Lanchester, in 1931 the company was acquired by B.S.A., who had also owned the Daimler Company since 1909. From then until 1956, Lanchester cars were built at the Daimler factory in Coventry as sister cars with Daimler, like Rolls-Royce with Bentley.

Lanchester’s legacy

Lanchester was respected by most fellow engineers as a genius, but he did not have the business acumen to convert his inventiveness to financial gain.

Whereas James Watt had found an able business partner in Matthew Boulton, who managed business affairs, Lanchester had no such assistance.

During most of his career he lacked financial backing to be able to develop his ideas and perform research, as he would have liked. He nonetheless made many contributions in many different fields. He wrote more than sixty technical papers for various institutions and organisations, and received awards from a number of bodies.

Lanchester Polytechnic

In 1970, several colleges in Coventry merged to form Lanchester Polytechnic, so named in memory of Frederick Lanchester.[43] It was renamed Coventry Polytechnic in 1987, and became Coventry University in 1992.

Coventry University’s Lanchester library opened in 2000. Its name commemorates Frederick Lanchester and the previous incarnation of the university as Lanchester Polytechnic. Like much of Lanchester’s own work, apparently regardless of convention, its form displays the way it functions.

Its distinctive appearance comes from the building’s energy efficient specifications, making use of light wells and exhaust stacks to draw air through the building, providing natural ventilation.

An open-air sculpture, the Lanchester Car Monument, in the Bloomsbury, Heartlands, area of Birmingham, designed by Tim Tolkien, is on the site where the Lanchester company built their first four-wheel, petrol car in 1895.

It was unveiled by Frank Lanchester’s daughter, Mrs Marjorie Bingeman, and the Lanchester historian, Chris Clark at the Centenary Rally in 1995.

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