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Boulton Paul Aircraft company logo

Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd was a British aircraft manufacturer that was created in 1934, although its origins lay in 1914, and lasted until 1961. The company mainly built and modified aircraft under contract to other manufacturers, but had a few notable designs of its own, such as the ill-conceived Boulton Paul Defiant.

The company's origins date back to an ironmonger's shop founded in 1797 in Norwich . By the early 1900s, Boulton & Paul Ltd was a successful general manufacturing firm. The aircraft building business was sold off from the main construction business in 1934 and then moved to Wolverhampton.



A 1944 advertisement for Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd

In 1915, Boulton & Paul began to construct aircraft under contract including 550 of the Royal Aircraft Factory FE.2b. During the war the company built more Sopwith Camels than any other manufacturer. Success as a builder of aircraft led to the company forming a design department but none of its resulting aircraft made a significant impact while the war lasted. The P.3 Bobolink fighter was overshadowed by the Sopwith Snipe and the Armistice beat the P.7 Bourges fighter-bomber into production.

Boulton Pauls chief aircraft designer was John Dudley North, who moved to them from Austin's Aircraft Department

After World War I, Boulton & Paul made their mark with the introduction of powered and enclosed defensive machine gun turrets for bombers. Their Sidestrand twin-engined biplane bomber, which could fly at 140 mph, had an exposed nose turret which was clearly inadequate. The subsequent Overstrand bomber featured the world's first enclosed, power-operated turret, mounting a single Lewis gun and propelled by compressed air. The company licensed a French design of an electro-hydraulic four-gun turret which became a major feature of their future production. In addition to fitting turrets to bombers, Boulton Paul was to install them in fighters.

Boulton Pauls aircraft were flown out of Mousehold Heath in Norwich - an area which became the first Norwich Airport

During this period Boulton & Paul continued to operate outside the aircraft industry as well. They manufactured equipment such as machine tools and stationary engines. The latter were also available coupled to a dynamo for powering electric lighting circuits, and were sold under the 'Electolite' brand name.

In 1934, Boulton & Paul sold their "Aircraft Department" which became Boulton Paul Aircraft Ltd. Over the next couple of years a new factory site was built up in Wolverhampton. This gave access to a large skilled workforce on top of the 600 or so employees that left Norwich for Wolverhampton. Even so Boulton Paul would later set up a training centre in Scotland to bring in extra workers. The first "turret" fighter to be built was the Hawker Demon. This was followed by Boulton Paul's most famous aircraft, the Defiant, (left) which was a revolutionary but flawed concept—a "fast" fighter with no fixed forward armament but a powerful four-gun dorsal turret. The same concept was used for the Defiant's naval equivalent, the Blackburn Roc, which while a design by Blackburn, the detail design was done in BP's drawing office and the aircraft was built wholly by Boulton Paul.

Boulton Paul also built the Fairey Barracuda and did conversions of the Vickers Wellington. The only post-war design was the Balliol advanced trainer, of which 229 were built, including 30 as the "Sea Balliol" deck-landing trainer.

In the jet age, Boulton Paul worked on the English Electric Canberra and de Havilland Vampire. It designed and built a couple of delta-wing jet-engined aircraft for research work and continued to tender designs for official requirements. In 1961 the company was acquired by Dowty Group and was renamed Dowty Boulton Paul Ltd and then Dowty Aerospace.

Following the acquisition of Dowty Aerospace by TI Group in 1992, and the subsequent merger of Smiths Industries and the TI group in 2000, to form Smiths Group, the site was sold again in May 2007 to GE Aviation Systems. Yet again in August 2009 the site was sold to Moog Inc. The site has an on-site museum dedicated to Boulton Paul Aircraft and the traditional methods used to manufacture aircraft.

Boulton Paul Aircraft

First flight date shown


  • UB.109T - Company designation Boulton-Paul P.123 .

Boulton Paul gun turrets

Boulton Paul were one of the main innovators of gun turret designs for British aircraft based on designs licenced from a French company. Along with Nash & Thomson's FN designs they supplied large numbers of installations for British aircraft. Turrets were electrohydualic in operation; electric motors located in the turret drove hydraulic pumps that powered hydualic motors and rams. This was more effective than electric motors alone. Production was transferred to Lucas

Turret Models[1]

  • Type A
    • Mark II Used on Defiant (D) and Roc (R)
    • Mark VIII Four gun or two gun turret, dorsal on Halifax
    • Also used on Ventura, and for converting Short C and G class flying boats
  • Type B
  • Type C
    • Mark I, 2 guns used as nose turret Halifax
    • Mark II, 2 guns used as dorsal turret on Halifax
    • Used on Hudson
  • Type D
    • 2 0.5 in guns
  • Type E
    • 4 x 0.303 guns rear turret used on Halifax and Liberator
  • Type K
    • Ventral design, 2 gun retractable used on Halifax
  • Type N
    • Nose design for Lincoln
  • Type R
    • Ventral, 2 x 0.303 guns periscope sight



External links

See also



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