Contact the Bridport News with your stories, pictures and video footage. Send us an email
Local nets contributed to war win
10:57am Thursday 19th September 2013 in News
He sent in copies of extracts from a book (sadly unnamed) with details of how the World War I nets came about and their development.
The book talks about the enormous output of war material from Bridport, saying the workers here performed prodigiously in the way of production.
It says: “Indeed, it is not too much to say that by their skill and industry they contributed in no small degree to the winning of the war, for without the enormous output from Bridport our armies would have been terribly handicapped.
“Huge orders flowed in from the War Office almost every day, and it was to the credit of the town that these orders were got out to time. Everybody who could took a hand in the work and the result has been the hallmark of smartness and efficiency.
“The manufacture of specially designed steel wire cord nets for catching prowling enemy submarines in search of defenceless prey stands out as a splendid effort, the ingenuity of which deserves the highest credit upon the inventor, for this net was the means of cutting short the career of many of those murderous craft and saving an untold number of lives and ships.
“Undoubtedly the most important of all the nets made for war purposes in Bridport, and which contributed vastly to checking the operations of enemy submarines, was the anti-submarine indicator net.
“Early in January 1915, an intimation came to the Bridport manufacturers from the Admiralty asking if it was possible for large nets to be made from steel wire cord, and if the manufacturers could attend a very urgent meeting at the Admiralty to talk the matter over.
“As a result, Mr WS Edwards went to London in conjunction with several manufacturers from other parts of the country and had a long conference with Mr Winston Churchill and Sir John Fisher at the Admiralty offices.
“In that interview Mr Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, said the only thing that could possibly defeat the British Navy was the submarine, and with the loss of the Navy there would be the probability of losing the war.
“After discussing the possibility and designs, Mr WS Edwards undertook to make a trial net in two days, which was done, and splendid results were ultimately achieved.
“The original was continually being improved upon and had not been perfected even at the end of the war.”
The cost of a net was between £8 and £16 and each was capable of stopping a submarine with a dead weight of between 300 to 3,000 tons.
The manufacture of nets went on for three years.
A letter to Mr Edwards from the admiralty said: “It is desired to convey to you an expression of appreciation of and thanks for, the services rendered by your firm in connection with the manufacture of these nets, as a result of which urgent Admiralty requirements have been fully met.”
Bridport also fulfilled other war orders for millions of hemp lanyards, pull-through cords for cleaning rifles, hay nets for horses – up to 50,000 a week and not made in any quantity since the South African war.
It was DJ Edwards who sent in the photo of William Saunders Edwards – which he placed from the time of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.
Mr Edwards was not sure if his father was right about the submarine coup – but he was, obviously!
Mr Edwards’s common genealogy was WS’s father, William Edwards, who was also a ropemaker and born in 1805.