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British Industrial History

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Arthur Frederick Sidgreaves

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Sir Arthur Sidgreaves (1882-1948), managing director of Rolls-Royce

1882 June 12th. Born probably in the Straits Settlements where his father, Sir Thomas Sidgreaves, was chief justice. His mother was Barbara Catharine, daughter of George Young, of Saverley House, Staffordshire.

He was educated at Downside School.

Worked for Napier

1920 Joined Rolls-Royce as Export Manager

1929 Became Managing Director of RR

He retired after WWII

1948 Obituary [1]

Sir ARTHUR SIDGREAVES, of "Farside," Manor Road, Penn, Buckinghamshire, whose sudden death occurred at Green Park Station, London, W, on Monday, June 7th, was an outstanding figure in the British motor-car and aircraft engine industries. For seventeen years, from 1929 to 1046, he was the managing director of Rolls-Royce, Ltd.

Arthur Frederick Sidgreaves was born in 1882, and he received his education at Downside College.

In 1902 he joined the pioneer firm of motor car designers and builders, S. F. Edge, Ltd., and from the beginning took a keen interest in the application of the internal combustion engine to road transport. For some years the firm of S. F. Edge was the sole concessionaires for the sale of Napier cars, which brought young Sidgreaves into close touch with the Napier firm.

He spent some time with the firm of [Napier|D. Napier and Sons]], Ltd., but went back to S. F. Edge, Ltd., with which he remained until the outbreak of war in 1914.

He then joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Service, and was drafted to the Royal Naval Air Service. When the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were joined, to form the Royal Air Force, Mr. Sidgreaves was gazetted major, and was drafted for service with the Air Ministry in the aircraft engine section. He was given charge of the production department which, at that time, had been specially established for increasing the production of the Rolls-Royce aeroengine.

Early in 1919 he returned to D. Napier and Son, Ltd.

In 1920, however, he joined the staff of Rolls-Royce, Ltd., as export sales manager, and was promoted to general sales manager in 1926.

In 1929 he became managing director of the firm, a position he continued to hold with distinction until 1940, when, at his own request, he retired from active business.

He was made an O.B.E. in l918 and was knighted in 1945. It was under Sir Arthur's direction that Rolls-Royce developed the liquid-cooled, in-line "Merlin" aircraft engine, with which most of the British fighting aircraft were powered during the recent war; but he also took a leading part in developing the jet engine, which in the "Derwent V" won the air speed record in 1945 and the year following.

Sir Arthur was also responsible for the decision which resulted in Rolls-Royce co-operating with Vickers-Armstrongs in the production of special aircraft for the 1931 Schneider Trophy contest, the winning of which did much on the engine side to further the design and construction of high-power aircraft engines.

When in the years before the war, the Government decided to establish a "shadow factory" scheme, Sir Arthur Sidgreaves, on behalf of his firm, undertook to build an entirely new factory at Derby for the increased production of "Merlin" engines, which, due to his foresight, were then being used for Royal Air Force machines in increasing numbers.

Later on new Rolls-Royce factories were built and staffed at Crewe, and at Hillington, near Glasgow, and production was commenced after construction in a very short time. Arrangements were also made to manufacture the engine in America. It is true to say that Sir Arthur Sidgreaves did perhaps more than any other man in the task of designing, making and delivering to the Royal Air Force the tools with which it won the Battle of Britain, and co-operated so successfully with the other Allied air forces in the later stages of the war.

Sir Arthur had gifts which from the beginning of his career marked him out for high administrative positions. He had a wonderful memory which aided him in his great work. While he was quiet and reserved in character, he made many friends who will mourn his tragic death at a comparatively early age.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • The Magic of a Name, by Peter Pugh. Published 2002. ISBN 1 84046 151 9