In a review of the effect of the War on local firms at the beginning of the year, it was found that many of them were working on Government contracts. Returns from seventeen firms found that over 750 employees were serving “their King and country, but considerably more anxious to emulate their example are prevented because they are assisting in the execution of Government contract”. In the firm’s case thirty-four or twenty per cent., of the eligible workmen had been accepted for service.
Over the first six-month period, all expect one of the tenders was from the Director of Army Contracts, with the firm winning five orders, three for a total of 25,000 horse shoe boxes; one for 1,500 3ft. 6in. picket posts; one for an unknown quantity of shell packing cases.
It appears that firm were discerning as to which tenders they would respond to. As most of the work was joinery related they appeared to be seeking high volume contracts with relatively low complexity. In late May, they were approached by the War Office regarding several contracts for dovetail boxes, which they refused to quote for. Another was for a batch of 120 boxes, with internal felt covered ledges, a snap lock with hinges, etc. Whilst they appeared tempted to quote, the small batch run put them off.
The relations between the firm and the War Office appear to have been amicable. In late July, someone from the War Office who was in Loughborough discussing the manufacture of hand grenades called in at the factory on the off-chance of “seeing one of the Mr. Burder’s”. He was intending to pass on the news that a new department was in the process of being set-up to manufacture shells on behalf of the French Government. He also thought that there would be an opportunity for the firm to make the packing cases and would pass their name onto this new department.
In September, they discovered that the War Office, were in the market for “ready-made huts”. Unfortunately, by the time most of the contracts had already been awarded, although the War Office suggested that they formally register their interest by writing to the Director of Army Contracts at Imperial House, Toothill Street, Westminster, London, as there might either be a second round of tenders or some of the current contractors might default on the contract. The huts were 60ft. long by 15ft. wide, built in 10ft. sections. Each section had two windows one on either side with a ledged door at each end. The sides were lined with asbestos sheets that the contractor had to supply and the weather-boarded exteriors had to be creosoted. The roofs were to be covered in felt, which was supplied. Whilst all the timber, apart from the windows and doors would be supplied free of charge, it was the contractor’s responsibility to get it transported from the Docks to the contractors’ works. All this timber was rough-sawn cut and came in various widths and thicknesses including, 1in. by 4in., 1½in. by 4in., 2in. by 4in., 3in. by 5in., 3in. by 6in.; roofing boards; ¾in. thick rebated weather-boarding; 1in. thick floorboards. The tender paperwork came with drawings and a specification; when submitting the tender, it was the contractor’s responsibility to state the quantities of the various sizes required per hut. Interestingly, contractors were not allowed to use any of their own timber except for that required for the windows and doors. One of the reasons for the firm missing this ideal opportunity was that at the time it appears that preference was given to those contractors with works close to the Docks; thus, minimising the amount and cost of transport. However, it appears that this restriction was in the process of being lifted.
They must have been annoyed at missing the tendering process as almost a year earlier they foresaw such a requirement, advertising in The Times on 2nd November, 1914:
WOODEN HUTS, HOSPITALS, HEATING AND FITTINGS for regimental purposes. Send specification and plans for estimate to Messenger & Co., Ltd., Loughborough.
The first tender from the Director of Munitions, arrived on 15th October for an undisclosed quantity of “grommet drivers”; whilst on 11th December, they won an order for 140 recreational tables for the Army.
At the beginning of December 1915, they started being approached by several firms to provide heating to various “aeroplane sheds” across the country. On 2nd December, they were contacted by Hodson’s of Mansfield regarding sheds at the Castle Bromwich Airfield and by William Moss & Sons Ltd., of Loughborough regarding sheds at both Castle Bromwich and Lilbourne, near Rugby. Presumably both Hodson’s and Moss’ were each involved in the same tendering process with the Air Ministry and attempting to use the firm to provide the heating. On 29th December, almost four weeks after the initial approach from Hodson and Moss, Messrs Jewson & Son of Norwich requested an estimate for heating the sheds at the Castle Bromwich Airfield.
The firm won the contract for RAF Lilbourne through William Moss & Sons Ltd., the prime contractor. In March 1916, they dispatched the heating system, which comprised of a No. 57 Quorn boiler, together with almost 400 yards of 4in. hot water pipe, by rail, presumably from their sidings as it was destined for Kilsby and Crick railway station, also part of the London & North-West Railway network.
On 22nd December, they were approached by William Moss & Sons Ltd., again; this time to provide a quote for both heating and hot-water systems for several military huts at an unspecified location; although this time it appears that Moss did not win the contract.