Monday 28 September 2015

Searchlights in The First World War

While watching an ice hockey match yesterday between Coventry Blaze and Widnes Wild, the word 'Coventry-Climax' popped into my head.  Research threw up the fact that the firm had a connection with WW1.

The company was formed as Lee Stroyer in 1903 by Henry Pelham Lee from Putney, a former Coventry-based Daimler employee, and Jens Stroyer from Denmark.  By 1905, the company was called Coventry-Simplex and they manufactured engines. Ernest Shackleton chose their engines for the tractors used in his Antarctic Expedition from 1914 to 1917. 

During the First World War, Coventry-Simplex supplied the engines used to power the searchlights needed to spot enemy plans and Zeppelins, thus helping to keep the night skies safe over Britain.  The company's name was changed to Coventry-Climax in 1917.  

The concept of 'artificial moonlight' - using searchlights to light up the night sky - was invented by Major-General J.F.C. Fuller (1878 - 1966), A British soldier veteran of the Boer War who served in several regiments during the First World War.

Some of you may remember the name from motor racing as the engine was used to power sports cars first in the 1954 Le Mans.  Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Jim Clark also had successes with cars powered by Coventry-Climax engines.  The company was sold to Jaguar Cars in 1963.

Sources:  Wikipedia and Google Images

And the Ice Hockey match?  Well Widnes Wild won but Coventry Blaze put up a very, very good fight and were the first to score, holding Widnes to 1 : 0 throughout the first session.  They show great potential.