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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Lincolnshire Aircraft Production WW1] [Ruston Proctor Lincoln]

Ruston Proctor - Lincoln

Prominent Lincoln aircraft manufacturer during WW1

Ruston Proctor Complex Lincoln Map

A map of Lincoln showing the locations of the 6 Rustons works.

1/ Boultham Works. 2/ Spike Island Works. 3/ Boiler Works. 4/ Sheaf Woodyard. 5/ Sheaf Woodworks. 6/ Sheaf Ironworks.

Ruston, Proctor and Company was established in Lincoln in 1857 and were manufacturers of steam tractors and steam engines. They later became known as Rustons and then Ruston & Hornsby.


Three main work sites in the Boultham area of the Lincoln were used by Ruston, Proctor & Co Ltd for aircraft and aircraft engine production. The Spike Island Works produced on aero engines, the Boultham Works produced aircraft and the Anchor Street Works was engaged in the production of wooden airframe parts. In 1914 the whole works covered 100 acres with more than 5000 employees.

Over 2000 aircraft were produced by the company and more than 3000 engines with 800 engines delivered as spares. At the end of WW1 about 3000 men and women were employed on aeronautical work at the site. Other important engineering war work was undertaken at Boiler Works and the Great Iron Works on the same site

Types built included: BE2cs; Sopwith 1˝ Strutters; Sopwith Camels; and Sopwith Snipes. The company was the country’s largest producer of aircraft engines during World War I and produced over 2,000 aircraft.

BE 2c

BE2 -

The first aircraft produced by Ruston Proctor was the BE 2c which was an early reconnaissance aircraft which suffered heavy losses and soldiered far too long until replaced by more suitable types.

The Ruston machines were fitted with the improved 90hp RAF 1a engine. New buildings were quickly erected in Lincoln on waste ground bordering the River Witham at Boultham and Spike Island and the first BE 2c was completed 6 months later and taken by rail to Farnborough for testing. The 4th BE 2c built by Ruston was flown by Lt W Leefe Robinson when he shot down the first German Zeppelin on British soil at Cuffley Herts on 3 September 1916

BE 2d and BE 2e

Rustons then received an order for 100 of the improved BE 2d and BE 2e. The first 31 aircraft were completed as BE 2ds and the remainder BE 2es

Sopwith 1˝ Strutters

Sopwith 1.5 Strutter -

This was the first of three Sopwith types built by Rustons and was a two seat scout fitted with a synchronized Vickers machine gun firing forward and a Lewis gun in the rear cockpit. Early versions were fitted on a rather crude mounting for the rear Lewis gun later replaced by the Scarff Ring mounting. The Strutter was powered by a 9 cylinder 110 hp Clerget 9Z rotary engine built under licence

Rustons produced four batches of this type some of which were powered by the improved 130 hp  Clerget 9B engine. The last 11/2 Strutters were delivered on the 25 July 1917

Sopwith Camel

Sopwith Camel scout -

The excellent Sopwith Camel was a scout bi plane designed in 1916 by Herbert Smith. Rustons were the first Air Ministry contractor when an order for 250 was placed in 1917. The first machine was completed in remarkably quick time on the 1 June 1917 and flown to France two weeks later. The Camel remained in production till November 1918and Rustons built 1600 of these aircraft which was more than any other manufacturer.

Most of the Ruston built Camels were fitted with the Ruston built Clerget 9B engine although some were modified in sevice to produce different engines. Several were converted to two seat machines at training units.

On the 4 January 1918 Rustons produced their 1000th Camel which was given a splendid non standard paint scheme to mark the occasion an as used to promote War Bond weeks in the area with great success.

Sopwith Snipe

Sopwith Snipe -

The Snipe also designed by Herbert Smith was a replacement for the Sopwith Camel. It was powered by Bentleys 230 hp BR 2 engine which had aluminium cylinders. The first Ruston snipe was delivered in October 1918. Sopwith Snipes were used by the RAF post war and as late as 1924 68 were still in service.

Other WW1 Work.

Rustons were involved in a huge amount of other war work including the manufacture of 8000 Lewis guns and I believe a variety of bombs. Also they were engaged in experimental work on remote controlled aircraft for use as bombers and/or targets. Drone technology in its infancy. It is not clear whether any of these machines ever flew but it was certainly an advanced concept for that time.

Ruston’s also built one other aero engine, the 340 hp 9 cylinder ABC Dragonfly. This was another very advanced project designed by Granville Bradshaw. 1500 were ordered in 1918 but the project needed further development and the order was cancelled after WW1

Post WW1

The aircraft work at Ruston was run down after WW1 and replaced by motor car production.

All aircraft work ceased on the 20 September 1920 with all aircraft in the works being transferred to Oddfellows Hall at Thetford and Portholme aircraft Co at Huntingdon

What Remains of the Buildings Today

Part of Ruston site  Large works at Spike Island

Part of Ruston site  Large works at Spike Island

Part of Ruston Spike Island Works

Part of Ruston Spike Island Works

Part of Ruston Boultham Works

Part of Ruston Boultham Works

Ruston Ironworks building

Ruston Ironworks building

Ruston Sign

Ruston Sign

Compiled by David Fell with acknowledgement to the book Aircraft Made In Lincoln by Walls and Parker. Photos from my archive



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