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Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) and Singer Motors: misc_bsa&singer337

A 1940ís aerial view of the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Small Heath site bounded by; the Grand Union Canal on two sides

A 1940’s aerial view of the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Small Heath site bounded by; the Grand Union Canal on two sides, the Great Western Railway and in the foreground, Golden Hillocks Road. There were no private railway sidings into this part of the BSA site, but Small Heath station was located on the Golden Hillocks Road bridge out of sight to the left of the photograph. It is understood that coal was generally imported by canal barge and material exports were taken directly to the Bordesley Goods Yard on the other side of Golden Hillocks Road.

The original Victorian factory buildings can be seen at the back of the site, while the large four storey reinforced concrete building at the front of the site was constructed during the First World War to increase armament production. Also fronting on to Golden Hillock Road on the other side of the canal is the electricity station which provided power to the site. During the First World War over 1.5 million Lee Enfield rifles and 145 thousand Lewis machine guns were produced at this site, in addition to bicycles and motor bikes. After this war, BSA concentrated production on cycles and motor bikes, but reverted to armament production again in the lead up to the Second World War and was the only factory in the UK producing rifles until 1941. This made it a primary target for the German Air-force during the hostilities and a major air raid on 26th August 1940 damaged the main barrel mill and 750 machine tools causing disruption to production. Serious damage and loss of life was caused during heavy air raids on 19th and 20th November 1940 (see misc_bsa&singer339), destroying the machine shops in the reinforced concrete building. The damage effected 1,600 machine tools and halted rifle production for three months, after which armament production was dispersed to shadow factories. At the end of the Second World War the BSA employed 28,000 people in 67 factory sites and was for many years Birmingham’s largest employer.

Robert Ferris