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British Industrial History

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Cromwell Hanford Varley

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Cromwell Hanford Varley (1890-1949)

1949 Obituary [1]

"MANY of our readers will have learned with regret of the death, on November 26th, at the age of fifty nine, in Hemel Hempsted Hospital, of Commander C. H . Varley, of 'Roughway," Coombe Hill, Kingston-on-Thames, following a short illness. He was born at Tangier, Morocco, in 1890 and was educated at Cherbourg, Great Malvern and Winchester, with a view to entering the Royal Navy. He matriculated in London University and continued his technical studies at Finsbury Technical College.

From 1905 until 1907 he was in "H.M.S. Britannia," and after serving as midshipman and lieutenant he joined the submarine service, and in 1914 was placed in command of a submarine. At the end of the war he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for the sinking of a German submarine off' Wilhelmshaven. He retired from the Navy in 1921 and set up a private experimental workshop, in which he designed and developed the paracyclic pump. In 1923 he took his designs to America, where they were used for the development of a petrol metering pump, many of which were constructed under licence." Read More

1950 Obituary [2]

"Cdr. CROMWELL HANFORD VARLEY, D.S.C., R.N. (ret.), will be remembered as the originator of the idea of using midget submarines in the Royal Navy, and he was a pioneer in developing the human torpedo on a non-suicidal basis.

He was born in Tangier in 1890, and joined HMS Britannia in 1905, passing out four years later. He was in command of submarines throughout the war of 1914-18 and was awarded the D.S.C. for sinking an enemy submarine off Wilhelmshaven.

On his retirement from the Service with the rank of commander, in 1923, he devoted his attention to the design of hydraulic machinery, in which branch of mechanical engineering he speedily established a wide reputation. In 1931 he founded the firm of Messrs. Varley Pumps and Engineering, Ltd., at North Acton, London, becoming general manager and technical director two years later. He assumed office as chairman and managing director in 1947. He had, in the meantime, built an experimental workshop in which he developed the first paracyclic pump, which was manufactured under licence in America and used extensively as a petrol pump for dispensing units. His capacity for design enabled him to produce several other varieties of pumps such as the gear-wheel, vane, and centrifugal types. When the Admiralty eventually adopted his scheme of using midget submarines to enter enemy harbours to place "limpet" mines on the bottom of ships, he designed and built the first craft, whose sister ships carried out the successful attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in Alten Fiord in 1943. Other of his inventions were nitrogen reducing valves for aircraft, and a hydraulic power lift for agricultural tractors. Commander Varley was elected a Member of the Institution in 1949, and was a frequent attendant at the meetings.

His death occurred on 11th November 1949."

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