The English Electric Company was formed in 1918 and, during that year and
1919, acquired control of Dick, Kerr & Co of Preston, England, Willans &
Robinson of Rugby , England, and the Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Company
of Bradford. It also purchased the Stafford Works of Siemens Bros. Dynamo
Works Ltd. Dick, Kerr had, in 1917, acquired the United Electric Car
Company makers of trams in Preston. As part of the reorganisation the
traction activities of the company were concentrated at Preston,
Lancashire and continued there until 1930 when the manufacture of
electrical equipment was transferred to Bradford, Yorkshire. Tramcars, bus
bodies and rolling stock were, however, retained at Preston.
By the late 1920s the company was in a parlous financial state and a
complex financial reorganisation, apparently backed by American
Westinghouse interests, was required to save the company. The man most
associated with the company, George Nelson, became managing director in
1930. During the 1930s the company became associated with the
electrification of the Southern Railway of England's system, which gave it
a strong position in the traction market.
English Electric made a substantial contribution to the British war effort
during the Second World War. It took over, in 1942, Napiers the
aero-engine company, and this helped establish the company's aircraft
division. As well as the company's traditional markets in heavy electrical
engineering, the post-war era saw developments in aircraft, along with the
railway traction business and a foray into domestic markets through the
acquisition of the Marconi Company in 1946. Further important companies
acquired in 1955 included Vulcan Foundry, and Robert Stephenson and
Hawthorns, all with substantial railway engineering pedigrees.
The early 1960s saw the company rationalise, under government pressure,
its aircraft division. This was to become part of the new British Aircraft
Corporation. In 1960 English Electric attempted a takeover of one of the
other major British electrical companies, GEC. This failed but the rest of
the decade saw the merger first of GEC with the British AEI company in
1967, and then in 1968, in the face of a bid for EE from the Plessey
Company, the takeover of English Electric by the new GEC conglomerate.