THE WAR INDUSTRY IN TOULOUSE DURING WWI
After Jean-Pierre BASTIE - Translated by Jean Lozes
Toulouse with its red bricks, Toulouse with its high steeples Toulouse with its innumerable towers, Toulouse with its river Garonne Toulouse with the Pyrenees as its horizon, with its highly imaginative citizens, Toulouse has become a city of war.
After Albert Thomas, the French minister for Armament.
Autumn 1914- At the moment when Germany's advance was held up by the river Marne and its soldiers had to hide within their trenches, it became clear after the first battles that the war would be long and very costly in men and equipment. Throughout France it was necessary to find out the resources to continue the conflict, namely to manufacture huge quantities of ammunition. In Toulouse, the metal workers who had not been mobilized were unemployed, the machines were at a stand still and the factories had closed down. In 1915, local councillors encouraged by the visits of Clémental, the Minister for Trade, and Albert Thomas, the future Minister for Armament, decided to summon up Toulouse manufacturers and to contribute to the efforts declared essential by French National Defence authorities. War supplies from abroad had reached a stalemate and local resources had to be called for so as to manufacture arms and ammunition. March 1915- work started to extend the gun-powder factory, the arsenal and the cartridge factory. At the same time, Inspector General d' Audibert, delegated to Toulouse, set up numerous clothing workshops in town in order to manufacture uniforms and shoes for the armed forces. The aeronautic industry, centralized around Paris, also accepted to abandon its monopoly and to encourage the setting up of manufacturing units in the city " with its red bricks ", thus enabling the production of airframes, engines and numerous spareparts in order to suply the newly created French Air Force. Encouraged by a great many manufacturers industries in Toulouse reopened and chose to supply war equipment.
SOCIETE ANONYME DES FERRONNERIES DU MIDI
This firm which before the war manufactured wrought ironwork for the building trade, nuts and bolts and furniture for boarding schools and hospitals had its head office rue du Béarnais. Encouraged by Albert Bedouce, MP for Toulouse, the firm managed by M.Robert, placed all the means it had available to serve National Defence. In the first place,with the cooperation of fourteen manufacturers in the city, it produced priming tubes for artillery, then went on with the making of cast iron 120mm shells. Then, at the French government's request, it made 95mm shells and Model 1909 tool cars . Demand was so high that the manager had to increase its payroll with disabled ex-servicemen who were being tended to in various Toulouse hospitals. But the 125 wounded employed on these tasks were soon overworked and Toulouse women then had to take over and replace the defaulting male manpower.
On account of the difficulties linked to the transport of shells that were cast in smelting works located in the Landes region before being machined in Toulouse, the Service des Forges asked the Toulouse firm to create its own smelting works. Hardly had the latter been completed when the French governement required the manufacturing of quick-fire 155mm shells. Soon newly equipped the smelting works was able to increase its daily production from 150 to 200 units . Parallel to this, Ferronneries du Midi SA, was also able during the war to make large quantities of insulator metal hinges to enable installing electricity lines..
ATELIERS DOMINIQUE RIEU & C°
As a representative of the big metalworking firms in the Toulouse area, Dominique Rieu was better able than any to let nascent initiatives benefit from his experience . He called for the assistance of three of the best casters in the area- Messrs Theophile Fabre at Maubourguet (Hautes Pyrénées ), Jacxalde frères, at St Paul de Dax (Landes) and Dechaumont at Muret (Haute-Garonne). The production of these smelting works was processed in Toulouse, rue Raymond IV, where cast iron 155mm A shells were machined and from where they were directly sent to the technical services of the armed forces. For the duration of the war, Dominique Rieu and Co workshops, skillfully arranged for an intensive production, were able to provide lucrative jobs to several hundred workers' families.
The workshops located at the Pré-Catelan founded in 1890 by Pascal Amouroux with a view to making agricultural equipment, soon answered the call of the government. After some refitting, they were quick to supply shell priming tubes, cast iron 90mm shells, cast iron case-hardened 95mm shells, ammunition caissons, machine-gun and ammunition small carriers, fodder waggons and depot waggons. Their ceaseless activity was a notable contribution to the supply of equipment and ammunition for the French forces. .
ATELIERS DU LANGUEDOC
Founded in 1917 by M. Fromassol, Ateliers du Languedoc modernized and took up the activities of the former Bonnet workshops which dated back to 1802. During the 1870 war, Bonnet Brothers had already worked for the French National Defence by housing a section of Bourges arsenal workshops in their Toulouse precincts. The new shops located at the so-called " Grand Rond ", manned by competent workers, soon oriented their activity so as to manufacture cartridge-making machines, detonator-fuse making mills, numerous mechanical parts and high quantities of various cal cast iron shells. .
This firm is one among the many which developed in Toulouse in order to meet war requirements. A few years before the war, Pauly smelting works were located rue Boulbonne and their production was limited to taps and other wine-growing equipment. At the declaration of war, the workshop had already moved into larger premises by the tour des Cordeliers. Pauly Frères which specialized in the manufacturing of bronze metal parts, shifted its production towards making canon wheel hubs and aiming outfits for artillery. A main difficulty at the time was to get supplies of copper. Thanks to the cleverness of its managers, Pauly Frères succeeded in keeping production at a high level by litterally grabbing and buying up all the copper boilers available in the surrounding countryside. The extension of its activities obliged the firm to move again- to the " Pont des Demoiselles "- where it set up over 13000 sqm during the war. The new factory had many shops, smelting works able to process 5000kgs of copper per day, and a pool of over 50 machine tools. From 1914 to 1918 Pauly Frères cast almost one millions kgs of bronze and supplied sixteen thousand canon wheel hubs or limbers for the French National Defence.