1914

With the onset of the War, the firm lost little time in attempting to win war related work.

By September, the London Manager was calling on the Admiralty, the Air Office and the Home Office. Although the Home Office were not awarding any contracts, the other two were and recommended that the firm formally apply to be added to the list of potential contractors[1].

Almost immediately they received their first enquiry[2]. On Thursday 1st October, the Admiralty approached them regarding two 60ft. by 20ft. temporary sheds to be erected at Chatham Dockyards. Even compared with peace-time, everything appeared to happen very quickly, with the firm sending the estimate off on Monday 5th and the Admiralty accepting, three days later.

This was followed 12 days later by an approach from the Army Ordnance Depot at Woolwich regarding a potential order for Army Bedsteads, although responding, the firm was unsuccessful. Four days later, The Secretary for State for War enquired regarding ammunition boxes, but again they were unsuccessful. As they were for the two following occasions when The Secretary of State made two further enquiries, one for camp tables and another for hospital tables, screens, etc.

On 4th November, they were approached twice by the Director of Army Contracts at the War Office. Firstly, for table and form tops, for which they were successful, the accompanying order also included 400 chopping blocks. Secondly, for tables and complete forms, although this time they were unsuccessful. Later in the month, they lost out on tenders for brush boxes and telegraph tables but were successful with tenders firstly for 100 chopping and brush blocks and secondly for 1,000 bedsteads and 200 tables. This style of activity continued for several months with the firm being approached once or twice a week to tender for Army camp related items that were required to be able to launch an offensive. These included what appear at first sight more unusual but necessary items such as meat safes, clothes horses and scrubbing boards. On another occasion the Army were procuring mining frames, presumably for the trenches. In January 1915, Messenger’s even won an order for 10,000 arms bands and shoes[3], how they fulfilled this order is undocumented.

On 19th November, 1914, the Director of Army Contracts ordered 2,000 horse show boxes. At about the same time they lost out on an order from The Admiralty for an extension to a garage at the newly formed RNAS[4] base at Kingsnorth on the Isle of Grain, Kent. The site was used during World War One as a base for the Navy’s seaplanes and airships, although it mainly operated as an experimental and training station. On 20th November, they won an order to build a 45ft. by 15ft. hut at the base.

Whilst most war related enquiries came from central functions such as Director of Army Contracts at the War Office, occasionally the firm was approached directly from camp commanders. Once such occasion was in December, 1914 when Lt. Col. Gordon Hall of Bustard Camp on Salisbury Plain, approached Messenger’s for a 40ft. by 15ft. hut.

The Admiralty, based at Chatham, was another regular correspondent, normally requesting the firm to participate in tenders for wooden buildings, such as four 37ft. by 21ft. huts in early February and an 80ft. 6in. x 26ft. garage, towards at the end of the month.

In the six months from the beginning of October 1914, they were approached four times by the Admiralty at Chatham Dockyards and won two orders; twenty-two times by the Director of Army Contracts of which they won six; three times by the Secretary of State for War and twice by other organisations for which they won none.


References:

  1. Privately held records.
  2. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/74.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Royal Naval Air Service.