1916

The beginning of 1916 was like most of 1915 in that the Army sent out a steady stream of anything up to a dozen tenders per month. Their list of requirements was becoming routine, although the occasional unusual item appeared, such as wheelbarrows. Whilst the firm nearly always submitted tenders, they were only occasionally successful. However, when they were successful they were significant orders, such as one on 24th January for 20, 000 horse shoe boxes.

If the beginning of 1916 was unexceptional from an Army contract perspective, then it signalled a significant increase in enquiries for other military or government departments. As during the previous fifteen months, apart from specific heating system enquiries the tenders were all joinery related.

The sudden increase in enquiries from The Ministry of Munitions was almost certainly the result of a visit paid by the London Manager, at the beginning January, to the Trench Warfare Department. They suggested that the firm write to The Director of Munitions Contracts, explaining what kind of work they had already done or were undertaking, together with references from other Government Departments or the Military.

Several tenders were received from The Director General of Military Aeronautics, which again were mainly for packing cases of various types[1].

Over a period of four days in the middle of January the firm was approached independently by the Ministry of Munitions and two buildings firms, Messrs Holloway Bros., of London and Messrs Dowsing and Davis of Romford in Essex. All three requested estimates for a heating a munitions store near Dagenham, presumably all referring to the same store. Even more unusual was that the firm won the contract via Messrs Dowsing and Davis rather than directly from the Ministry[2].

William Moss & Sons Ltd. continued to try and win orders for building “aeroplane sheds” at numerous airfields, such as Doncaster and Cirencester; each time inviting the firm to quote for the heating systems. It appears that either William Moss was unsuccessful or the firm lost out to another heating supplier[3].

By the end of May, having won very few contracts, they contacted the Army Contracts Department, at Imperial House, London, hoping for some news on their tenders for clamps for bags and bread safes. The former was still under consideration and the firm proved too expensive on the bread safe tender. They explained how badly they wanted work and the telling response was that prices were being cut to very fine margin, presumably meaning that contractors were barely breaking even, yet alone making a profit. The message to the firm was clear, if they wanted more war related contracts they had to lower their prices.

It appears matters did not improve. Although they won a contract for 1,000 rife rests in the middle of June, they lost out on numerous others, including one from the Army for blackboards and easels and two from the Leicester, Northants and Rugby Munitions Committee for 2in. and 3in. shell boxes. Possibly because of not winning these last two contracts, they contacted Mr. Truman at the Trench Warfare Supply Department (part of the Ministry of Munitions) in London. However, he appears not to have wanted to get too involved and simply suggested they apply directly to the Leicester, Northants and Rugby Munitions Committee as they were empowered to recommend firms; even though the final decision on all tenders was made by the Trench Warfare Supply Department in London. There had apparently already been a dialogue between the firm and the local Committee, resulting in them escalating to headquarters. This obviously did not bode too well for future contracts.

Up to the end of the year they continued to win the odd contract, such as type fitters’ benches from the Director General of Military Aeronautics. An order for 10,000 horse shoe boxes was awarded by the Army on September. However, they lost out on what appeared to be a standard heating system for an extension at the War Office[4].


References:

  1. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/75.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office ref: DE2121/75.