DEFENCE: A Boxer CRV and MAN Truck at the launch of the Rheinmetall Military Vehicle Centre at Redbank.
DEFENCE: A Boxer CRV and MAN Truck at the launch of the Rheinmetall Military Vehicle Centre at Redbank. Cordell Richardson

Rheinmetall: Bombed by the allies, brings jobs to Ipswich

CONSTRUCTION of Rheinmetall's Ipswich military centre marks another step in the fascinating history of an arms-production company at the forefront two world wars.

The first sod was turned last week on Rheinmetall's $170 million Military Vehicle Centre of Excellence at Redbank; where it will construct almost 200 Boxer vehicles for the Australian Army.

It is the latest major contract and twist in one of Germany's longest-operating companies.

In April 1889 - as the closure of the 19th century brought a sweeping technical and economic progress - the company Rheinische Metallwaaren-und Maschinenfabrik Aktiengesellschaft, was formed to supply munitions to the German Empire.

Engineer Heinrich Ehrhardt established the factory in Düsseldorf and headed it until 1920.

Due to the terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War, the company was forced to start building non-military products including locomotives and office equipment.

This would continue from 1919 until 1921 when the company resumed military production.

Three years later the German Reich acquired a majority stake in the military factory before, in 1933, a merger with a locomotive manufacturer established a future arms production plant in Berlin.


Historic pictures of Rheinmetall.
An early Rheinmetall factory. Contributed

Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 led to the outbreak of the Second World War.

France fell to the Germans in June 1940 and the Nazis overran most of the rest of Europe and North Africa.

In 1940 the German army gained increasing control of Rheinmetall-Borsig's arms production.

In 1944 and 1945, Rheinmetall's production facilities were damaged and then destroyed by air raids.


Historic pictures of Rheinmetall.
Allied bombing destroyed Rheinmetall's factory. Contributed

Consistent allied-led bombing operations forced the company to relocate outside Berlin; to places located in today's Poland.

At the end of the Second World War - after the deaths of 56.4 million people - a production ban was imposed on Rheinmetall by the military government.

In 1950 a factory was started in Düsseldorf for the build of barely successful non-military products.

Eleven years after the war ended Rheinmetall was able to resume building defence equipment.

Its first product was the remake of an MG-42, a Nazi machine gun dubbed "Hitler's buzzsaw" because of its distinct sound.


Historic pictures of Rheinmetall.
Rheinmetall employees build weapons at the height of World War Two. Contributed

Rheinmetall continued resuming and developing military production for two decades before starting an automotive sector in 1986 building carburettors.

Sixty-eight years after the end of the global war, the Australian Defence Force ordered 2500 Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles from Rheinmetall, with delivery scheduled to take place between 2016 and 2020.

Rheinmetall, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014, is one of Germany's oldest joint stock companies.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review in the late 1990s found there were few companies in the world that survive to become a century old.

Its turbulent history, described in detail in a book published by Greven-Verlag, closely mirrors wider political and social developments in Germany.

Rheinmetall expects to open its Redbank military vehicle facility in early 2020.