British shoe manufacturers and their workers had to collaborate in order to try and meet the incredible demand. Until you see a quote like the one above, it is difficult to imagine the enormity of those production figures and the demands placed on British footwear manufacturing.
One of the Rushden firms, Sanders and Sanders, had begun to expand before the war. Orders were increasing so William and Thomas employed more craftsmen and out workers. In 1912 they moved to Spencer road, still their factory today, taking around 70 workers with them.
As machinery became more advanced, and Charles Goodyear had provided the shoemaking industry with ‘Goodyear welting’ machines, the production process sped up remarkably. So as War struck and boots were at their highest demand, the factory was producing almost 6000 pairs of army boots per week. When the war ended in 1918, the demand in shoes hadn’t, and around 5000-6000 pairs of shoes were still leaving the factory and being delivered to customers all over the country.
Northamptonshire wasn’t just praised for the amount of footwear it produced in such a short amount of time during the war years. German generals in secret reports remarked upon the superiority of Northampton’s boots and recommended the adoption of our designs for their own men. American experts declared them to be the best army boots ever made. As Mr Harold Baker, Financial Secretary to the War Office stated in 1915, “I do not think there has ever been a single case at the front in which bad boots have been served out.”
A year before the start of the war, production had turned from hand-made boots to a machine-riveted boot made of chrome leather. This was hailed as a bold move as it departed from the accepted theory that a hand-made boot was the best for military purposes. However, the new boots proved both efficient and comfortable.