YEARS ago, when I gazed up at the Spitfire suspended in Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery during a visit, I little suspected the Glasgow connection to these fighter planes and their equally iconic counterparts, the Lancaster Bombers.

That connection began in the mid-1930s, with war on the distant horizon. It was known that aerial warfare, seen on a much smaller scale during the First World War, would dominate the coming conflict. The UK required the production of planes on a massive scale but the industry was not yet developed enough to provide the quantities needed.

A plan was hatched to use the established motor industry’s skills, knowledge and technology instead. A network of shadow factories in strategic locations was set up - and the Rolls-Royce facility at Hillington was included. (It was insurance against the loss of the original Rolls-Royce facility in Derby.)

Construction on the factory began on farmland in August 1939 and continued until May 1940 when it was ready to operate.

Located over 150 acres, it employed around 25,000 workers, some of whom resided in housing provided by the factory itself. Many also stayed in the nearby estate of Penilee.

RR Hillington was a massive operation, and its aim was to produce and repair Merlin engines for aircraft including Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers.

Several months ago, the City Archives received a photograph album which chronicled the construction and operation of the factory as well as the training of its workforce.

Within its beautifully presented pages are images like the one pictured. They capture the start of the factory’s immense contribution to the war effort.

Men and women alike are glimpsed with their heads bent over engines in mid-assembly, just several of the thousands which were produced during the war.

Such was RR Hillington’s importance to the war effort that it was photographed during the Luftwaffe’s aerial reconnaissance of Scotland.

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These photographs were used to select bombing targets and the factory was one of the original targets of the German bombing raids of March 13 and 14, 1941. While the factory escaped destruction, other areas of Clydeside were not so lucky. Raids devastated parts of Clydeside, notably the burgh of Clydebank and Kilmun Street in Maryhill.

RR Hillington survived the war years to become a major local employer and a focal point of local community life.

Many met their future husband or wife on the factory floor and it wasn’t uncommon for generations of the same family to serve their time as apprentices there. Its closure in 2005, when production moved to Inchinnan, was keenly felt.