An assembly shop in the N.A.F. No.2. 1918
Facility Type & Function:
National Aircraft Factory (N.A.F.) – Manufacture of De Havilland DH.9 and DH.10 bombers plus Dragonfly engines.
During World War I, the importance of military control of the air became evident at an early stage and thus the British government sought to significantly increase aircraft manufacturing capacity accordingly. Up until 1917 aircraft production had been in the hands of a few specialist private companies which, with government support, were producing 1,229 airframes per month by 1917. However, this output was still under target. To meet the shortfall the British government, under the direction of the Air Ministry, created three new “state of the art” aircraft factories. These were operated by private companies such as Cubitts, Sopwith and Cunard.
Construction of the National Aircraft Factory (N.A.F.) No.2 commenced on 9th October 1917 by Unit Construction Company Limited and H Matthews & Sons (Builders) Limited. It was built on a 22 acre site off Crossley Road in Heaton Chapel, Stockport. The site was adjacent to the London & North Western Railway company’s line between Manchester (London Road) station and Stockport (Edgeley) station. An existing factory of 15 acres, belonging to Crossley Motors Limited, already occupied part of the site and this was incorporated into the new works.
Heaton Chapel showing the site of N.A.F. No.2 (or Crossley Motors Limited). 1933
N.A.F No.2 opened in April 1918 and was put under the management of Crossley Motors Limited. The factory’s first production contract was for 500 de Havilland DH.9 single-engined two-seat biplane bombers for the Royal Air Force. In July 1918, the factory was extended for the manufacture of Dragonfly engines.
The first DH.9 was dispatched from N.A.F. No.2 in March 1918 by rail and delivered to an Aircraft Acceptance Park at Coal Aston near Sheffield. Here final assembly and testing was carried out before delivery to the R.A.F. By the Spring of 1919 approximately 450 DH.9’s had been dispatched by the N.A.F. No.2. The last 50 aircraft of the factory’s first production order, plus further contracts for additional DH.9s, were cancelled after the Armistice.
In addition to orders for Dragonfly aero-engines the N.A.F. No.2 received a further production contract for the production of 200 de Havilland DH.10 Amiens twin-engined biplane bombers for the R.A.F. The first seven of these were completed and test flown from February 1919 onwards before the remaining machines on order were cancelled. At the time of the factory’s closure in 1919, N.A.F. No.2 boasted the highest production figures of the three N.A.F.s build during the war making it the most successful National Aircraft Factory.
During 1918 the workforce of N.A.F. No.2 stood at 1,603 of which 952 were women.
After the cancellation of remaining orders for military aircraft, the buildings which made up N.A.F. No.2 were used by Crossley Motors Limited for the manufacture of goods vehicles.
In 1935 the site was again handed over to aircraft production. It was occupied by the Fairey Aviation Company of Hayes in Middlesex who had won military contracts for the supply of aircraft and sought a factory site. Fairey Aviation constructed further production buildings on the site and went on to produce nearly 4,400 new aircraft at the works between 1936 and 1958 which were test flown at the nearby Ringway Airport.
Some of the original buildings that comprised N.A.F. No.2 remain on the original site.
Heaton Chapel, Greater Manchester (formerly Cheshire) – National Factory Area No.2
Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:
Function: Canteen token
Material: White metal alloy (zinc?)
Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge
Shape & Size: Circular, 28.5 mm
Obverse: Raised legend between inner and outer raised borders reads NAF (CMLD) STOCKPORT CANTEEN . Mark of value 3D in centre field (Note 1).
Reverse: Three raised concentric circles within an outer raised border.
Date: 1918 to 1919
Maker: Unknown (Note 2).
Published References: Yarwood, J. & Johnson, M. – Supplement to Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 43 – MMT144. Private Publication. 2018.
- These appear to be the only Great War period National Factory tokens to indicate the name (or in this case the initials – Crossley Motors Ltd.) of its private operating company.
- It appears that Crossley Motors Ltd. used similar designed canteen tokens during the period after the Great War when they operated the factory to manufacture vehicles.
(Image courtesy of Malcolm Johnson)