WITHOUT the Clydeside and its industries, World War One may have ended very differently.

As the world commemorates the centenary of the end of the ‘Great War’, a new exhibition at Fairfield Heritage in Govan makes plain the huge part Glasgow’s shipyards and engineering businesses had to play.

River at War: Fairfield and the Clyde during WW1 aims to help upcoming generations understand the strategic importance of Glasgow’s river and the vital work being undertaken there in a time of national emergency.

Fairfield’s development and property officer Abigail Morris explains: “The munitions produced on Clydeside, in one form or another, supported fighting men whether on land, at sea or in the air.

“The great industrial effort required to do this touched the lives of tens of thousands of working people and their families.

“They encountered difficult conditions on the home front with rising living costs and concern for those fighting.”

The Clyde produced 30 per cent of all ships built during World War One, according to the British Shipbuilding Database.

By 1918, Fairfield was bursting at the seams with 19 ship contracts on the slips, including HMS Wolfhound, SS War Patriot, HMS Kinross and HMS Wanderer.

The yard was also renowned for its engineering excellence in marine propulsion, with many young men receiving an excellent training working on diesel machinery for submarines.

But it wasn’t just about the shipyards. A host of other companies became makers of components for aircraft, guns and ships.

The exhibition outlines some of the vast range involved, including G&J Weir & Co, in Cathcart, which set up new shops to manufacture shells and ended up producing more than 170,000 per week; and James Howden & Co on Scotland Street, which made millions of shells for the French Government. The North British Diesel Engine Works at Whiteinch also manufactured shells, aircraft engines, submarine engines and gun components while the North British Locomotive Co Ltd in Springburn and Polmadie made shells and sea mines.

Hundreds of Mark IV tanks were manufactured on Clydeside, at Beardmore’s Dalmuir Works, at John Brown & Co, Clydebank and Mirlees Watson & Co at their Scotland Street works.

A number of small hospital paddle ships were built on the Clyde in 1916 for river service in Mesopotamia and guns of all sizes were made in Beardmore’s Parkhead Forge.

As the war progressed, aviation became of increasing importance, placing great demands on the production of aircraft and airships.

With few established centres of production in an industry in its infancy, the Government was forced to rely in part on companies with no previous aeronautical experience.

Shipyards with well equipped sawmills and joiner shops were seen as places where wooden airframes could be built.

Similarly, engineering works could readily be adapted to manufacture aero engines. Clydeside, with its abundance of both was in great demand.

The most famous aircraft production company was William Beardmore & Co Ltd, which had major steel, armour and gun works at Parkhead and a large naval shipyard at Dalmuir.

In 1913, the company acquired the licence to manufacture the Austro Daimler aero engine which it did at the Dumfries works of the Arrol Johnston motor company.

Known as the Beardmore 120hp and Beardmore 160hp engines, they powered many British aircraft types and gave rise to a series of more powerful variants. At Dalmuir, Beardmore began the manufacture of subcontracted airframes, but more importantly, the company set up an Aviation Department where new aircraft types could be designed and built, including giant rigid airships.

Abigail Morris hopes the exhibition will attract a wide audience.

She adds: “One hundred years on, shipbuilding on the Clyde has become something of a romantic cliché which can mask the reality of production and working conditions. This exhibition offers a glimpse of what it was really like.

“It is equally important to instil a sense of pride in the skill and expertise in which the Clyde excelled and still does to this day, although on a smaller scale.”

River at War: Fairfield and the Clyde during WW1 runs until the autumn at Fairfield Heritage, 1048 Govan Road in Glasgow. Visit www.fairfieldgovan.co.uk/heritage/events/ for more information.