Ministry of Supply
The Ministry of Supply was a department of the UK Government formed in 1939 to co-ordinate the supply of equipment to all three British armed forces, headed by the Minister of Supply
Minister of Supply
The Minister of Supply was the minister in the British Government responsible for the Ministry of Supply, which existed to co-ordinate the supply of equipment to the national armed forces...

. There was, however, a separate ministry responsible for aircraft production and the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 retained responsibilities for supplying the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. During the war-years the MoS was based at Shell Mex House
Shell Mex House
Shell Mex House is situated at number 80, Strand, London, UK. The current building was built in 1930-31 on the site of the Hotel Cecil and stands behind the original facade of the Hotel and between the Adelphi and the Savoy Hotel. Broadly Art Deco in style, it was designed by the architectural...

 in The Strand
Strand, London
Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, London, England. The street is just over three-quarters of a mile long. It currently starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar, which marks the boundary of the City of London at this point, though its historical length...

, London.

In 1946 the Ministry of Aircraft Production was abolished and the MoS took over its responsibilities for aircraft. In the same year it also took on increased responsibilities for atomic weapons, including the H-bomb development programme.

The Ministry of Supply was abolished in 1959 and its responsibilities were devolved to three single-service ministries. Later, these ministries were to merge to form the Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....


The Ministry of Supply instigated the Rainbow Codes
Rainbow Codes
The Rainbow Codes were a series of code names used to disguise the nature of various British military research projects. They were mainly used from after the Second World War until 1958, when they were replaced by an alphanumeric code system.-History:...

 designation system. This assigned projects a two-word codename, the first word being a colour and the second a noun. As a result, secret weapon projects—including numerous nuclear weapons—were given lighthearted names such as Green Cheese
Green Cheese missile
The Green Cheese missile was a British radar-guided anti-ship tactical nuclear warhead missile project of the 1950s. It was developed by Fairey Aviation to be used by the Fairey Gannet shipborne anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and was originally called Fairey Project 7...

, Blue Slug or Red Duster.

The Royal Ordnance Factories

The Ministry of Supply was responsible for building and running the Royal Ordnance Factories which produced explosives and propellants; filled ammunition; and constructed guns and rifles. However, the Ministry of Works and/or private building contractors acted as agents during their construction. The Ministry was also responsible for the supply of tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles; however, these were mostly designed and built by private armaments companies, such as William Beardmore and Company
William Beardmore and Company
William Beardmore and Company was a Scottish engineering and shipbuilding conglomerate based in Glasgow and the surrounding Clydeside area. It was active between about 1890 and 1930 and at its peak employed about 40,000 people...

 and Vickers
Vickers was a famous name in British engineering that existed through many companies from 1828 until 1999.-Early history:Vickers was formed in Sheffield as a steel foundry by the miller Edward Vickers and his father-in-law George Naylor in 1828. Naylor was a partner in the foundry Naylor &...

, as well as other engineering companies.

Agency factories

The Ministry of Supply also arranged for the construction of a large number of Agency Factories which were run on its behalf by private companies, such as Nobel Industries. These were similar to the Royal Ordnance Factories, but were not part of the Royal Ordnance Factory organisation.

Labour supply

The Ministry of Supply was also responsible for the labour force of these factories. Although the Ministry of Labour
Ministry of Labour
The Ministry of Labour was a British civil service department established by the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916. It was renamed the Employment Department in 1988, and finally abolished in 1995...

 did the recruitment. From the middle of the war onwards the Ministry of Supply was in direct competition with the Ministry of Aircraft Production for labour and the two organisations had to reach agreement. Towards the end of the war the Ministry of Supply released labour so that they could transfer to the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

Expansion of scope

Following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the post-war Ministry of Supply was created on 1 April 1946 as a result of the amalgamation of the former Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The functions and responsibilities of the new department remained basically the same as its predecessors.

Atomic weapons

Later in the same year, the MoS took over the responsibility for atomic weapons research. Lord Portal
Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Charles Frederick Algernon Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford KG GCB OM DSO & Bar MC was a senior Royal Air Force officer and an advocate of strategic bombing...

 was appointed as Controller of Production (Atomic Energy); and the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) was set up, with William Penney
William Penney, Baron Penney
William George Penney, Baron Penney OM, KBE PhD, DSc, , FRS, FRSE, FIC, Hon FCGI was a British mathematician who was responsible for the development of British nuclear technology, following World War II...

 as its first Director.

The atomic energy research function was relinquished in 1954 when the UK Atomic Energy Authority was set up, although the Ministry of Supply retained responsibility for the control of atomic weapons.

Reversion to single-service ministries

The Ministry of Supply was wound up in 1959 when the Ministry of Aviation
Ministry of Aviation
Ministry of Aviation was a department of the United Kingdom government, established in 1959. Its responsibilities included the regulation of civil aviation and the supply of military aircraft, which it took on from the Ministry of Supply....

 was created, and other functions in respect of British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 and Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 supply reverted to the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 and Air Ministry
Air Ministry
The Air Ministry was a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964...


See also

  • Minister of Supply
    Minister of Supply
    The Minister of Supply was the minister in the British Government responsible for the Ministry of Supply, which existed to co-ordinate the supply of equipment to the national armed forces...

  • Atomic Weapons Establishment
    Atomic Weapons Establishment
    The Atomic Weapons Establishment is responsible for the design, manufacture and support of warheads for the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent. AWE plc is responsible for the day-to-day operations of AWE...

  • Defence Research Establishments
  • Filling Factories
    Filling Factories
    A Filling Factory was a munitions factory which specialised in filling various munitions, such as bombs, shells, cartridges, pyrotechnics, screening smokes, etc...

  • List of Royal Ordnance Factories
  • Royal Ordnance Factories
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