Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,972 pages of information and 233,612 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Miles Martin Pen Co

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of 74 Earls Court Road, London, W8. Telephone: Western 5133

See also - Miles Aircraft for full details.

WWII The Royal Air Force needed a new type of pen, one that would not leak at higher altitudes in fighter planes as the fountain pen did. The British Government bought the licensing rights to Biro's patent for the war effort. The successful performance of these pens for the Air Force brought the Biro pens into the limelight.

It took a lot of development effort to make Biro's ideas work in practice. The first successful models used ball-bearings from crashed Spitfires (Woodley Airfield was a graveyard for many aircraft that staggered home, badly damaged) as these were the only ball bearings machined to a sufficiently high degree of precision. Much of this work was performed at Miles Aircraft, with some at the nearby RAE (Royal Aircraft Establishment) at Farnborough. Miles machinists were quick to make these pens up as fast as they could, they were ideal for writing at high altitudes in unpressurised, unheated crew compartments. Theirs were the first production-quality, reliable ballpoint pens in the world.

Laszlo Biro had neglected to get a U.S. patent for his pen and so, even with the ending of World War II, another battle was just beginning for him but this was too late for Miles Aircraft to gain much financial reward.

December 1945: the first ballpoint pens available to the British public were sold at Christmas by the Miles Martin Pen Co.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Biro, The Modern Writing Instrument. Shown in Several Models including the Latest Streamlined Non-austerity Automatic with its Retractable Ball Point. Each Model Incorporates the well known "Biro" Features. (Olympia, 1st Floor, Stand No. H.2153) [1]

1949 Two Biro pens and copper refills. Ball point pens produced after Laszlo Biro's patent of 1938. Biro’s patent was for a pen filled with a viscous quick drying material fed to a ball point by means of a spring loaded plunger. For quality production, instead of a large ink reservoir with spring plunger feed, a long length of copper tubing doubled on itself four times was adopted, the ink being fed to the ball point by capillary action alone. In later models, the copper tubing was replaced by an acetate tube, of slightly larger bore bent double to form a U, which reduced the weight and bulk. [2]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1947 British Industries Fair p186
  2. [1] Science and Society Picture Library