Planning and Profits

BookPlanning and Profits

Planning and Profits

British Naval Armaments Manufacture and the Military Industrial Complex, 1918-1941

Research in Maritime History, 53


August 1st, 2021



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In a time of great need for Britain, a small coterie of influential businessmen gained access to secret information on industrial mobilisation as advisers to the Principal Supply Officers Committee. They provided the state with priceless advice, but, as “insiders” utilised their access to information to build a business empire at a fraction of the normal costs. Outsiders, in contrast, lacked influence and were forced together into a defensive “ring” – or cartel – which effectively fixed prices for British warships. By the 1930s, the cartel grew into one of the most sophisticated profiteering groups of its day.

This book examines the relationship between the private naval armaments industry, businessmen, and the British government defence planners between the wars. It reassesses the concept of the military-industrial complex through the impact of disarmament upon private industry, the role of leading industrialists in supply and procurement policy, and the successes and failings of government organisation. It blends together political, naval, and business history in new ways, and, by situating the business activities of industrialists alongside their work as government advisors, sheds new light on the operation of the British state.

This is the story of how these men profited while effectively saving the National Government from itself.

Author Information

Christopher Miller is Research Fellow in Business History at the University of Glasgow.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
About the Author9
List of Tables and Figures10
List of Illustrations11
List of Abbreviations12
A Note on Definitions13
Part One: Introduction15
1. “Guilty Men,” Complexes, and Legends17
2. Structural Changes, from the Ministry of Munitions to the Principal Supply Officers Committee, 1918–192723
Part Two: Industry and the Navy before Manchuria, and the Establishment of the Warshipbuilders' Committee, 1919–193139
3. From Boom to Bust: The Private Naval Arms Industry and the Admiralty, 1919–192641
4. From Competition to Collaboration: The Warshipbuilders’ Committee and the National Shipbuilders Security Scheme, 1925–193161
Part Three: The Formation of a National Government, the Far East, and the PSOC Approach to Industry, 1931–193491
5. From “Outsiders” to “Insiders": Industry and the Rehabilitation of the Supply Planning Framework93
6. The Advisory Panel of Industrialists and Inside Information, 1933–1934117
Part Four: The Ultimate Potential Enemy and Rearmament Planning, 1934–1936147
7. Towards Rearmament, 1934–1935149
8. The White Papers, 1935–1936167
Part Five: The Inskip Era and War, 1936–1941197
9. The Minister for Coordination of Defence and Early Rearmament, 1936–1937199
10. Later Rearmament and War Supply Organisation, 1937–1941222
Conclusion and Retrospective241