The Meteor isn’t simply a Merlin with the supercharger removed!

THE ROLLS-ROYCE METEOR – Cromwell and other applications. (Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust No 35). Evans, McWilliams, Whitworth and Birch.

Thinking back I can’t remember how I came across this book, it is rather obscure but well worth a read; for a WW2 armour enthusiast it is a MUST.

The title would have you believe that the book deals with the Meteor tank engine which indeed it does but the history surrounding the design and manufacturing effort stretches into every aspect of Cromwell and Comet development. A better title would probably be: Rolls-Royce: Saviour of Britain’s wartime tank industry.

A number of authors work has been brought together in this book by the people at the RR Heritage Trust including: a Cromwell Tank crew member, the gent who brought the Merlin / Meteor tooling post war and supported the historic aviation industry and the man who put the Meteor into production in 1942 – pedigree indeed!

For the main part the book concentrates on the day to day workings of the Meteor design team in the early 1940s, from initial brain wave through early prototypes and the organisation of mass production. Interlaced are the political wrangling both directly with the civil service and between the companies involved. The political parallels with today’s industry are tangible as are the wishes of ‘real’ engineers to just ‘get on with it’ and find solutions. All the details of fitting the V12 into the Cromwell are entered in to in great detail, the story running in parallel with the equally difficult project of sourcing parts, tooling and suppliers to manufacture the new engine – not to mention designing the engine in the first place – the Meteor isn’t simply a Merlin with the supercharger removed!

There are numerous B&W plates interlaced through the work, including many rare photographs and period technical drawings. One colour diagram is included just inside the back cover depicting a Cromwell I, it’s easy to miss this interesting addition when casually flicking through the pages.

Post war interest is covered towards the end of the book, with time given to Comet, Centurion and Conqueror vehicles, plus a look at Rovers involvement with the Meteor Project.

Interestingly I closed this book with a respect for the Cromwell Tank which I’d never felt before and a feeling of pride in the British Engineers who could (can?) overcome such hurdles with brain, brawn and a slide rule.

Published by the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust.

ISBN-13: 978-1872922249.

Available on Amazon for £15.00.

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.