Big Guns and Little Guns
RAYMOND ARTHUR DAVIES
THE STACCATO bang-bang-bang of hammers penetrates the intense whirr, whine and drone of rows of gigantic machine tools in the new and gleaming five-acre building of the Westinghouse Electric Co. of Canada. Carpenters are knocking together boxes which, for all their twenty-foot length, resemble coffins. That’s what they are, in a way— coffins for Hitler.
In them are shipped in growing numbers barrels and completed gun assemblies for the 3.7-inch antiaircraft gun, one of the world’s deadliest and most efficient weapons with a range of nearly 40,000 feet and capacity of twelve rounds per minute.
Look over the vast 620-foot long and 308-foot wide WX building and you’ll see rows upon rows of imposing and intricate machines painted a uniform grey—sixty-foot boring machines, grinders, milling machines,
GREEN GEESE By JACK PATERSON IN SIX PARTS Commencing June 1 Maclean's
turret lathes with multiple toolheads, honing and rifling machines. All are proportioned to the huge size of the barrel which reaches the plant as a rough 3,100-pound, eighteen-foot forging and leaves as a grease-covered, perfectly finished gun ready to be placed in the mount.
Follow the progress of the 3.7-inch barrel through the shops. It is received as a rough forging in the older section of the plant. You see it lifted by a powerful crane, inserted into a 200-ton press for straightening. You can hardly credit your eyes as you see the one and a half ton forging, at one end nearly a foot in diameter and eighteen feet long, bend into a deep curve for a moment as if it were a piece of wire. Then the outside diameter is turned on a twenty-threefoot double-carriage lathe to conform to the rough shape. A sixty-foot boring machine goes to work next, driving through the forging with a steel drill in an amazingly short time.
At this point the barrel is given the autofrettage treatment. Glycerine is pumped into it hydraulically under pressures of up to 80,000 pounds per square inch. Will the barrel stand the pressure? Will it yield? Are there any weak spots? The naked eye cannot tell but gauges give accurate information.
Next the barrel is “soaked,” immersed for hours in the terrific heat of a sunken thirty-foot-deep electric furnace. Then it is bored again and again, honed, rifled to give the projectile a spiral motion in its lethal flight through space. Tolerances are brought down to within thousandths of an inch. Scores of machines make the small parts—the breechblock alone consists of 250 individual pieces. When completed, each barrel or gun (a gun consists of the assembled, barrel, breechblock, breech ring and jacket) is tested at the proving range. If accepted by government inspectors it is either shipped overseas or placed in the mount in Canada.
Not long ago a shipment of six barrels was considered good. Now you may see a freight car fully loaded with barrels, plus many awaiting the nextshipment and hundreds in process of production. Not bad when you consider that the first barrel was turned out only a year ago. Production is now 100 per cent above expectations at that time.
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Swift, Orderly Production
THE MOUNTS for the 3.7 A.-A.
gun are made by the ordnance division of General Electric Co., which is entirely government financed but managed by General Electric. Machines here are labeled the property of the Canadian and British Governments. The same is true of other ordnance plants constructed through use of government funds. This one has more than 18,000 jigs, tools, fixtures and gauges and has cost more than $10,000,000 to date. Another $8,000,000 will he expended before it is finally completed.
Original plans called for the production of only twenty 3.7 mounts per month. The quota has since been multiplied many times and the plant is still expanding. Size of the gun—the largest mobile gun unit made in Canada—can be judged from the fact that the gun itself weighs ten and a half tons, the mount seven and a half. The whole assembly consists of more than 8,000 individual parts. Tires used in the mount contain enough rubber in each to make eight average sized tires for automobiles.
As you look over the plant from the cab of the travelling crane you are impressed by the orderliness of production. The sound of tools, the noise of trucks and cranes, occasionally broken by calls over the public address system, the colorful attire of the girl employees (most of them wear overalls and kerchiefs), all blend into one symphony of machine production. Color is added by the varying hues of the metals. Steel shavings at lathes are blue, reddish blue, almost violet at times. Some of the mount castings are bronze, a warm golden shade. The machines are grey. All this reflects in the sunlight in kaleidoscopic array and bewilders the visitor.
As in all ordnance plants, most of the workers are new to the industry. Here’s Harry Eadie from Ottawa. He was a plumber. Garry Andern comes from Windsor. He is eighteen and used to drive a truck. Mrs. Ina Williams operates a Cincinnati Horizontal Milling Machine. Pert, pretty, brunette, she looks quite in place at the big machine in her blue overalls. She is married, has two children, eight and eleven. Her husband also works in the plant. They have a housekeeper who takes care of the children.
“I want to win the war, that’s why I’m here,” she says smilingly.
Then there’s Fred Ford. He’s from Meaford where his folks have a 200acre farm. He’s here because he thought the plant needed men more than other factories. He is fascinated by the machinery and the job. Beth Moncrief comes from Bailieboro’near Port Hope. She’s a farmer’s daughter. Seventeen-year-old Bill McKinney worked in the Lakeshore Mine machine shop. His father is also in the plant. And so it goes.
In the upper end of the machine shop is the assembly room. Workers cluster about the unfinished weapons. It is apparent that assembly tech-
nique has not yet been fully assimilated. But there is no time for more schooling. People are learning in the process of production. Assembly men are assisted by George Coy, an English worker from Derbyshire, skilled in 3.7 assembly and sent here only a few weeks ago.
“Although it is all new to them,” he says as he points to his Canadian fellow employees, “they are all doing fine.” He thinks the Canadian product superior to that made in the old country.
The G.E. plant is marked by the spirit of fellowship and comradeship which seems to prevail between workers and management. You feel that serious attention has been given to this. “Don’t let them catch us with our plants down,” is the slogan on the office wall of Works Manager Ian McRae. The idea seems to have penetrated everywhere in the plant.
Recently, when after months of tooling-up and preparatory work the first 3.7 was turned out and taken to the proving range, Mr. McRae organized a draw at an employees’ meeting. Ten lucky winners—four girls and six men—went at the company’s expense to see their guns perform. One of them was Florence Jackson, a machine operator. She came to the plant from Smiths Falls and had never seen a machine tool. “It makes you feel something when you see this big gun you helped make, firing,” she says.
While the gun is basically the product of the Westinghouse and General Electric ordnance divisions, more than a hundred other factories also share in the honors. Orders for nearly forty per cent of the parts used in the mounts are “farmed out” to subcontractors under the “bits and pieces” program. In this way the work is spread through many factories in many localities. Machine tools are utilized to the utmost and the main plant can concentrate on the type of work it can do best.
Elevators To Elevations
THERE is almost no subcontracting at the new and spotless 300,000-square-foot ordnance division of the Otis-Fensom Elevator Company, where 3,500 workers make the 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft equipment. Here the whole weapon is made from barrel to mount. The Bofors is really a giant machine gun, the largest automatic gun made. It can fire 120 rounds per minute. The barrel, of finest steel, can last for only 800 rounds, or seven minutes, at top firing rate. Under ordinary conditions barrels are changed for cooling after each twenty seconds of firing.
Most of the skilled help formerly employed on the production of
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elevators is now engaged in making guns. The change-over from civilian to war production was not too difficult. “A factory worker,” an OtisFensom executive told us, “knows little about the complicated machine or the completed weapon. Pie only knows his own part. That is why the shift to war production for workers formerly engaged in peacetime machine work was easy. The accuracy of barrels does not exceed that of elevator work. We talk of the new product as a piece of steel with a hole through it.”
Forty-four types of steel and eleven of nonferrous metals are used in manufacturing the Bofors. The main portion of the plant is devoted to the manufacture and assembly of the 2,000 parts which go into the mount, breech and oil unit. Long rows of machines, largely operated by girls, cut, drill, bore, turn, mill, ream, hone, broach, grind, hob. Profile milling machines cut parts guided by predetermined shapes which are set into the machine. They follow the master “profile.” Through the aisles electric trucks honk their way.
Girls operate cranes overhead. There is an attitude of leisure and yet of efficiency. Lunch carts are on the go continuously. We observed girls sitting at their machines, eating bananas, enjoying soft drinks, talking, laughing. Far from impairing their efficiency, we were told, this heightens it.
Here, as in the General Electric plant, a great deal of attention is devoted to morale. On a large bulletin board is a quotation from General McNaughton’s talk during his visit: “The Canadian forces overseas have less than ten per cent of their mini-
mum requirements of Bofors guns.” “Let’s not let the General down,” the workers say. The plan is to produce as many guns per week as have been produced altogether thus far. This will be accomplished this year.
Although to the layman the number of machines seems tremendous— there are 800 in all—the shortage is exposed by this sign: “Until our new machines come in, this hobber must run twenty-four hours every day and seven days per week.”
Great care is taken to safeguard tools, which are becoming more difficult to obtain each day. On the tool room wall is a board with a number of broken tools. Under them is this caption: “These are dead soldiers in our undertaking. It takes six to ten months to replace them. A little care might have saved their lives.”
Shells In Thousands
SHELLS are produced in a plant of the National Steel Car Co. where more than 1,200 workers are employed. At first glance the shop is extremely crowded, almost overcrowded. Every available bit of space is taken. Machines stand close together. The process is continuous.
At one end six-foot steel bars are brought in. They are cut by acetylene machines into ten-inch blanks and piled up like logs. They are then passed through horizontal and vertical presses, the inside drilled out and the hollow cylinders heat treated. Rough turned, they are reheated to a temperature of 2,200 degrees. One end of each cylinder is squeezed into a nose. Nose-boring machines, handling five shells at a time, simultaneously bore the nose, cut to proper length, remove superfluous metal from the inside and inch out the shells.
The inside is shellacked and the completed shells are painted white, inspected by government inspectors and sealed with a transit plug to keep out grime on the journey to the filling plants. The shells are packed in cartons, six to a box, and shipped in carload lots. They look like cases of tomatoes.
Machine Gun Output
LARGEST of all ordnance plants in ^ Canada is the government machine gun plant operated by the John Inglis Company. The Department of Munitions and Supply believes it is the largest automatic small arms plant in the world. With its 4,500 machine tools and 9,000 workers, it has long since surpassed the original Bren gun plant in Brno, Czechoslovakia. More than thirty types of steel are used in producing the three weapons made in the plant. The Bren gun, finest of its type, has 161 parts requiring 3,000 operations. The Browning Mark 11 machine gun consists of 176 parts requiring 2,100 operations; eight to twelve of these deadly guns are mounted on each Spitfire and Hurricane, enabling the crews to fire 160 rounds per second, 9,600 per minute. The third weapon now coming into production is the Boys antitank rifle of .55 calibre, whose bullets can penetrate light armor at great range. The Boys rifle consists of 124 parts requiring 1,200 operations. Of the plant’s total of 6,300 operations, 5,000 are by machine.
The plant is a maze of machines standing in long rows as far as the eye can reach. One building is a fifth of a mile in length. Here and there one is struck by the peculiar antics of young workers who place barrels into viselike machines, rotate wheels exactly resembling steering wheels of steamships, then squiht and peer through the barrels.
Seems silly. But it is far from that. These are the barrel setters. They examine each barrel and straighten those that are crooked. As they peer through they see shadows formed on the highly polished bore. If the shadows form a perfect V which lies in the same position as the barrel is rotated, then the barrel is straight. If, on the other hand, the shadows are concave or convex, then the barrel is crooked and must be straightened. Through experience, by judging the shape of the shadow, the barrel setters can tell exactly what part of the barrel has to be straightened.
Many problems have had to be overcome in developing mass production of the three guns. Some of the “headaches” still remain to be solved, however. Here’s one example: although mechanization has here reached an extremely high level, in the midst of a whole row of automatic machines producing parts for the Boys rifle you see a worker turning by hand a machine that looks like a small meat grinder. He is carving out shoulder slots inside the stock body. They must be correct to two tenths of one-thousandth of an inch. Apparently no machine exists that can do the job. To “crack” this bottleneck, ten, perhaps twenty, of
these “meat grinders” will soon be installed.
Machines perform many of the exact operations but men and women must operate the machines. The plant is known for the large number of women workers, of whom there are more than 3,500. All professions are found among them. Comely Margaret Lock operates a vertical miller. She was a professional model and theatre usherette. Donelda Watts operates a vertical drill. When we asked this red-headed young lady what she did before coming here, she replied: “Twin watching.” She watched her neighbor’s twins. Now she makes guns. Hundreds of girls formerly in housework are operating machines. The management has often been jocularly reproached for “maid stealing.”
In Ontario is a government rifle plant which employs 2,800 workers, two thirds of them women. Here are made the No. 4 rifle, the army’s standard weapon, and the Sten submachine gun, considered by many to be the cheapest and most efficient personal combat arm. It costs only $35 to manufacture, as compared with $200 for other types, and can be fired like a Tommy gun. It fires 400 rounds a minute in a burst, is jamand fool-proof.
“You can fire the Sten like a garden hose,” say those acquainted with its operation.
The Sten is destined to play an important role in this war, which is a war of either very distant or very close combat. It is most efficient at close range of up to 100 yards. The Japs in Malaya were bristling with this type of gun and the Russians have vast quantities. It is ideal for paratroops and commandos because it can be taken apart and packed in a box the size of a toaster. It uses German-type ammunition and could be dropped behind enemy lines for rebellious populations who could obtain bullets by attacking invader patrols and ammunition dumps.
This plant has never stopped growing. Begun in 1940 as an 80,000square-foot structure, in November, 1940, it was decided to triple production and in March, 1941, the plant area was already 162,000 square feet. In the late summer of 1941 the plant received orders to again double production. This meant a sixfold
increase over the original plan and raised in very acute form the problem of labor.
The plant adopted a most realistic approach to the problem. It could not rely even upon a small nucleus of trained workers obtained from an existing plant, as had been done by General Electric, Otis-Fensom and Westinghouse. The task which faced the management was to simplify operations to such a degree that any worker with a minimum of experience could perform them. The whole plant was put on line production. It was divided into sections—for the production of the body of the rifle, for the bolt, trigger and so on. Machines were so placed that a part could travel along step by step from raw material to finished product.
To a large extent engineering has taken skill out of operations. The work has been brought down to a simple movement. Even toolmaking —an operation hitherto considered quite difficult—is being handled by trainees. The manufacture of the body of the rifle has been broken down into 192 operations; of the bolt into eighty-four; the small bolt head, scarcely bigger than a sewingmachine shuttle, into forty; the trigger guard, fifty. More than 2,500 machine tools are employed in production and the simplicity of operation permits many girls to operate two and even three machines.
This, then, is the brief roundup of part of Canada’s gun and ammunition industries, supervised from Ottawa by H. J. Carmichael, DirectorGeneral of the Gun Production Branch at Munitions and Supply, by E. J. Brunning, who holds a similar post in the Production Branch, and by Col. D. E. Dewar, DirectorGeneral of Arsenals and Small Arms Ammunition.
From a standing start the Dominion has created in two years high-speed plants which at this writing are supplying arms and projectiles, plus their propellents, for every front on which the United Nations are engaged, as well as for Canada’s defenses. The move is sharply toward self-sufficiency in a country which, prior to the war, was virtually without an armament industry.