Peter Nissen, the Inventor of the Nissen Hut, was born in the USA in on the 6th August 1871. He attended Trinity College, North Carolina leaving in 1891. In 1896 he went to the mining school at Queens University Kingston. Peter Nissen was born in the USA in on the 6th August 1871. He attended Trinity College, North Carolina leaving in 1891. In 1896 he went to the mining school at Queens University Kingston Ontario.
His father Georg Nissen had patented a stamping mill for crushing gold ore so that it could be processed to produce gold. Basically an improvement of the old stamp system.
In 1910 at 39 he collected all the cash he could get (including a loan on his life assurance and set out for England with his wife (Louisa and his daughter Betty) and landed with only a few pounds in his pocket.
He went to England because this was the centre of the mining engineering which served the whole of the British Empire where enormous Gold deposits were discovered in South Africa. By July 1910 an indenture was made between himself and Head Wrightson and Co. He spent from then until the out break of the first world war demonstrating the superior performance of the Nissen Stamp.
In 1914 he returned to England where he was at first turned down to join the British army and the royal engineers. However, in January 1915 he became a temporary lieutenant in the 12th Battalion of the Sherword Foresters. He was supervising the shifting of some timber and a Royal Engineer passing by remarked that he must be an engineer and organised that in May 1915 he should join the 103rd Field Company Royal Engineers.
In the Royal Engineers handbook, it gives specifications on how to build hutting. It starts off by visiting a timber merchant and going from there. However, the need to provide portable hutting for the troops in muddy France was acute. By April of 1916 Peter Nissen had designed his prototype Nissen Hut from Corrugated Iron and by September that year large numbers were being produced.
Major Nissen was joined by a draftsman corporal Donger, who wrote great recollections of working with Peter Nissen. Together they produced the working drawings and instructions as to how to put up the hut and how to pack the hut into a standard Army truck with a capacity of three tons. As the hut weighed 2 tons, it just needed the drawings to show that the hut would fit into one of these standard trucks.
As Donger describes in that in early 1917 they discovered that the troops occupying the Nissen huts ripped out the matchboard linings to fuel the stove (after all they all had bayonets). This prompted a redesign and Nissen had the idea of using corrugated iron as a liner but this time with the corrugations going parallel to the ground. The difficulty was joining these sheets together which was achieved by a patent slide that joined the sheets and enables the inner corrugated lining to be pushed up and over the inside of the hut.
- 100,000 huts were constructed
- 10,000 hospital versions were made to house 240,000 beds
- The normal time to erect a hut with 6 men was 4 hours and the record is 1 hour 27 mins.
For the design of the Nissen Hut Peter Nissen was given the DSO and promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.
As a serving soldier, Nissen got nothing for his invention but he was allowed to patent his hut but after the war the British Government tried to sell off some of their surplus huts. At this point his patent agent, Chamberlain, managed to get Nissen £10,000 free of tax no mean feat.
Nissen tried to commercialise his hut idea after the war but unfortunately died of pneumonia in 1930 the age of 58.
The hut was revived in the second world war and used extensively. It was even used in the Falklands war. The Amercans invented their own version of he Nissen Hut for the second world war called the Quonset Hut.