Thanks on the cards for factory workers

Commercial Cars factory

Following the letter from Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, thanking Commercial Cars employees for their efforts with supplies and equipment for the war effort, the staff have each been given specially printed cards to recognise their achievements.

The card, an example of which is shown here, bears the company's logo in red and blue with a copy of Lord Kitchener's letter on the reverse.

The Luton News understands that cards on similar lines have also been supplied to employees at the Leagrave Aeroplane Works (Hewlett and Blondeau Ltd).

Meanwhile, former Commercial Cars employee Cpl C. Stangham, serving with the 1st Life Guards, wrote from the front to his uncle, Mr F. Stangham, of 12 Stanley Street, Luton saying that he had seen "any amount of old Commer Cars out here, and expect I helped to build some of them".

Back in Luton, Commercial Cars was one of the firms reporting a surge in business, as shown in the annual report of the Chamber of Commerce - described by The Luton News as manufacturing "booming in a manner never before experienced".

The Biscot Road firm reported: "Prior to the outbreak of war we had largely increased the number of machines in our factory to cope with an ever-increasing output, as we can safely state that the future of the commercial motor industry is now assured. In fact, since the formation of the Company and its residence in Luton there has been a constant increase of output year by year, and improvements in its manufacturing conditions.

"Immediately war was declared, we were approached by the War Office, and although we had obtained the War Office certificate for our Subsidy model, exigencies of the situation were so great that the whole of our output was commandeered for an indefinite period, subject to six weeks' notice. In addition to this, cars of our manufacture were impressed throughout the British Isles, with the result that we have received hundreds of repeat orders, which we shall fulfil in strict rotation.

"There is no doubt but that in our case the present war will be the cause of the factory working day and night for the next two years."

Elsewhere, ironfounders Messrs T. Balmforth and Co, Pondwicks Road, reported an initial dip in trade at the start of the war, in common with the building and allied trades.

"We have recently, however, received considerable orders from the Admiralty and the War Office which will, with our ordinary business, keep us busy for some time," reported the firm, which pointed out that output had been materially reduced with 38 men sent to join the forces.

Looking to the future, the firm reported: "We have been laying down a new and complete plant for the production of high-class electrically smelted steel castings, which we expected to have in operation in the course of a few weeks. As most of the supplies of this material have previously been drawn from Germany, we think this new development will supply a want in this country, and we expect to receive considerable volumes of work in this direction."

The Davis Gas Stove Co Ltd, in Dallow Road, reported very favourable conditions of trade up to the outbreak of war with the prospect of an increase on the corresponding period the previous year had normality been maintained.

"The trouble lies with our inability to execute orders on account of the large number of men who have left us to join the forces," reported the firm.

It added that on the question of new industries it had been fortunate enough to secure some of the business in the form of enamelled goods which previously had gone to the Continent.

The Skefko Ball Bearing Co Ltd, Leagrave Road, was also optimistic. "Before the outbreak of war we were kept very busy, but since hostilities began we have been busier still, mainly on account of the fact that the German competition is eliminated. At the present moment the prospects are particularly bright."

Chamber President Mr. H. Inwards also reported that engineers Messrs George Kent Ltd in Biscot Road, had placed a £3,000 building contract and wanted 350 girls to operate capstan lathes.

The only hiccup involved the building trade. The Master Builders Association reported that business in Luton had declined compared with former years but most builders had sufficient contracts, although speculation work had slackened somewhat.

"The war has had a serious effect upon the building trade and we, like other towns, are suffering from a considerable slump. Materials are costing more, and we do not anticipate prices will be normal for some time."

[The Luton News, December 10th, 1914]