Among provincial firms which rendered splendid service to the national cause during the war, the Davis Gas Stove Co, of Dallow Road, Luton, is entitled to rank highly, said an article in The Luton News (February 20, 1919). And the firm are displaying great energy and business acumen in preparing for the trade boom which is commonly anticipated when the national activities have settled down following the transition from a wartime to a peace regime.
Prior to the call made upon the firm's capacity by the demands of war, the staple industry at the Dallow Road foundry (Diamond Foundry) was the manufacturer of gas cooking and heating stoves; their products in this direction covered a very wide range and had earned a high reputation for excellence alike in workmanship and finish.
At the same time, considerable attention was paid to the production of general builders' and special light castings, enamelling for stove plates, advertisement signs and similar commodities, and to the manufacture of hot water heaters.
The outbreak of war wrought an immediate change. The first step taken in order to meet the new situation which arose was the extensive development of the wood-working and joinery department. The firm had always run their own wood-shops, in which they carried out all their necessary repairs, and from this originated a phase of activity which provided employment for from 200 to 300 girls. The latter were engaged on the construction of ammunition boxes. This, of course, was an entirely new departure, but an idea of the extent to which it was called upon is gained from the statement that in the aggregate over a million of these were turned out.
Now that there is, happily, no further need for such boxes, the joinery department is being organised into an additional peace time adjunct of the company's activities. It is proposed to utilise the plant for the production of architectural woodwork, high-class garden furniture, showroom cases and the like; and it is gratifying to learn that already a number of large orders have been booked on these lines from various parts of the country.
During the war, naturally, the gas stove portion of the business w3as relegated to a backward position. Gas and gas products played such an immensely important part in the output of munitions that ordinary commercial needs could not be considered. No opportunity was lost, however, in carrying out such experiments and tests as were possible in regard to the deign of new or improved examples, and the results of this foresight have been clearly shown at the interesting demonstrations which have taken place at the works during the present week.
The gas stove trade is now being pushed to the fullest possible extent, and the optimistic hopes entertained as to the future are more than justified when it is remembered that whereas, under wartime conditions, all building and similar work was stopped, there is now every prospect of very extensive developments in such fields of labour, and that the staple products of the Davis Gas Stove Company are of essential use, directly or indirectly, in the solution of such problems as that of housing.
The establishment came under Government control in October 1914, and is still under the suzerainty of the Ministry of Munitions. During the heaviest pressure, the staff employed had increased from about 850 to over 1,200, the additions being almost entirely due to the influx of female labour.
The output of the furnace department was also tremendously increased during the war period. As in the other shops, a wide variety of work was turned out, but specific allusion may be made to the construction of oven furnaces for annealing cartridge cases, heating copper driving bands before shrinking on to shell cases, shell-nosing furnaces, crucible furnaces (for melting aluminium for fuses, cartridge brass and Admiralty gun-metal), a special range of furnaces for hardening high-speed steel, a smaller range for hardening carbon steel tools, and large furnaces for billet-heating, annealing etc.
Figures we are able to give demonstrate the great part played by the firm during the period of hostilities. The record does not claim to be complete, but among the output were:
Hand grenade castings 5,000,000
Hand grenade complete 500,000
Aerial bomb castings 55,000
Incendiary bomb castings 20,000
Re-forming cartridge cases 570,000
18-pdr shrapnel fuse socket castings 2,500,000
C.I. Fuses 900,000
Mine castings 65,000
Grenade base plugs 9,500,000
Rifle grenade dischargers 30,000
Stokes' bombs 150,000
Stokes' bomb pistol castings 500,000
Blocks for 18-pdr chemical shells 300,000
60-pdr shrapnel heads 80,000
C.I fuse plugs 750,000
Cartridge and shell wooden boxes 1,100,000
Electro plating fuse parts 25,500,000
The figures, like the company's staple products, are illuminating, and show the energy and ability with which the firm were able to adapt themselves to the demands of unique conditions. It is the knowledge that the possession of this vision in outlook and power of adaptability has been proved, which creates a strong spirit of optimism as to the future of the Davis Gas Stove Company.
[The slideshow below includes products made by the Davis Gas Stove Co during WW1. In the panel, above left, are two sets of pdf images of workers and production inside the Dallow Road factory at that time.]