MARSHALL OF CAMBRIDGE – A BIG COMPANY IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
10 Apr 08. BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold visited Marshall of Cambridge to see at first sight the size and capability of this Company which, like so many other privately-owned British engineering Companies, does little to advertise its success – but it is there in spades. The last time I visited Marshall was in 1982 to persuade Marshall Specialist Vehicles Limited (MSV) to use our Sandringham 6×6 Land Rover as a base vehicle for the Marshall range of bodies. A lot has changed in the military vehicle landscape since then with many companies either merging or going to the wall through the feast and famine processes of the U.K. MoD. At Marshall’s we found that a lot had changed and that MSV, in particular, is firing on all cylinders particularly on the back of its strategic win as contractor for all the bodies for the MAN Support Vehicle contract, of which more later.
At a time when similar sized quoted companies are grappling with the three-pronged attacks of a looming recession, problems with obtaining funding and the spiralling costs of debt to keep stock market ratings, Marshall has none of those problems. Not only is it privately owned, it has the size, strength and diversity to weather a recession and to grow through either organic growth or acquisition and crucially the Company is debt free. It is the third largest privately owned industrial company in the U.K.
“At any one time Marshall has at least £20 million on bank deposit,” Peter Callaghan, Chief Executive of Marshall SV told BATTLESPACE.
It is worth looking at the history of Marshall of Cambridge to understand how this position of strength has been obtained through the years.
Marshall of Cambridge History
Marshall of Cambridge was founded by David Gregory Marshall on 1st October 1909 in a small lock-up premises in Brunswick Gardens, Cambridge, as a chauffeur drive company for Cambridge University in particular.
During the First World War, the chauffeur business continued, and the garage premises, which had relocated to Jesus Lane were used to help with servicing and maintenance of Army ambulances.
In 1921, Marshall became the first Austin distributorship for Cambridgeshire. Marshall entered the aviation business in 1929, opening its first, and small, airfield on what is now the Whitehill housing estate, providing flying training on de Havilland Gipsy Moth aircraft to local people which particularly included members of Cambridge University. Moving to the present airfield in 1937, the Company quickly became involved in teaching RAF pilots to fly and, during the course of the Second World War trained over 20,000 pilots; one sixth of the total number trained for the Royal Air Force.
The Company strengthened its flying training skills by the establishment in 1938 of an ‘ab initio’ flying instructor training scheme which enabled young men without previous flying experience to learn to fly and become flying instructors within a 14 week period. This scheme, which was an immediate success, was universally adopted by the Royal Air Force in 1941 and continues to this day.
During the Second World War, Marshall became involved with Lord Nuffield’s Civilian Repair Organisation carrying out modification, repair and maintenance work on over 5,000 aircraft in support of the war effort.
David Marshall’s son, Arthur, now later Sir Arthur Marshall, who was educated at Tunbridge School and Jesus College, Cambridge where he gained a First Class Degree in Engineering, took over the running of the Company in 1942 upon the death of his father. As the result of the aircraft skills developed during the Second World War and, with the development of its own Aircraft Design Office and in-house manufacturing, post war the aerospace company became a natural sub-contractor to all the aircraft manufacturing companies in the United Kingdom.