Today (8 May 2018) is the 75th anniversary of the incorporation of the North Bar Tool Company, now renamed Norbar Torque Tools Ltd.  The North Bar Tool Company was incorporated on 8 May 1943 by William Brodey (my grandfather, generally known as Bill) and his friend Ernest Thornitt (Ernie).


It is hard to imagine, for those of us born decades after the war ended, what life was like in the midst of the second world war.  A glance at Bill’s diary from late 1942 gives some clues.  Entries include records of how much petrol he used for which journeys, many attempts to shoot rabbits for food (“hit two, got none” one entry reads), references to the black out and his activities with the home guard.  However, as 1942 progresses, there is also a growing desire to address the urgent need for torque (or tension) wrenches for the war effort by making the tools in Banbury.  During this year Bill attended many meetings with both UK and US military personnel and a note in his diary from 9 December records that “we can no longer rely on America as our source of tools for aero engine manufacture.”  Later that month, Bill resigned his position working for the tool importer Delapena and addressed himself full time to the manufacture of torque wrenches for the war effort.


The tools that he and Ernie wanted to make were required for the manufacture of the Merlin engine made by Rolls Royce.  That engine was used to power many military vehicles, both land and air including many iconic World War II aircrafts – Spitfires, Lancasters and Hurricanes.  However by 1942 disruption to supply chains across the Atlantic meant that insufficient quantities of torque wrenches were arriving from America to support the UK’s needs and manufacture in the UK was the obvious answer. 


A further problem to be overcome was that the tool in question was protected by a patent held by Joseph Sunnen of St. Louis, Missouri and so permission was needed for the North Bar Tool Company to manufacture it in the UK.  Bill and Ernie approached The Ministry of Supply and with the grant of a special licence under the Patents Act 1907, all legal obstacles to production were swept away and production began in a small workshop in North Bar Place. 

Although the immediate post war years were difficult as the company adapted to peace time trading it soon began to establish itself as a specialist in torque tools and torque measuring instruments first in the UK and then beyond.  The company now employs 300 people in Banbury (where all product is still manufactured) and another 120 in subsidiaries around the world.  We are proud of all the company has achieved with the help and support of its employees, suppliers, customers and advisors.  However we are especially grateful to our founders William Brodey and Ernest Thornitt and will remember to raise a glass to them during our 75th Anniversary Celebration taking place (fittingly) as part of the Flywheel Festival on 24 June where we are particularly looking forward to the Spitfire, Lancaster and Hurricane fly past!


Catherine Rohll