Industry and Commerce

Industry and Commerce

The outbreak of war severely disrupted industry and commerce in Fife. Export of coal from Fife to Germany was prohibited in July 1914 and by early August many collieries were closed for want of shipping facilities when the ports were closed for a period. Workers were put on short time. Fishermen were told that they fished outwith sight of the shore at their own risk and they were forbidden to fish in the Firth of Forth. 

Empty factories were taken over by the War Office to house troops, often remaining in government hands until the end of hostilities. Firms also lost overseas holdings as German state took possession of factories and resources owned by British companies.

Slowly factories moved over to war production. McIntosh’s, the Kirkcaldy furniture makers, made wings for aircraft. Foundries across Fife took on military contracts. Others continued to work mainly for the civilian market but with limited resources and fewer workers, aiming only to maintain the organisation. In many industries, raw materials were scarce: the government took control of allocating flax to different jute spinners in Fife.

The end of the war did not bring relief. The loss of so many men, especially those who had been earmarked for posts of responsibility was tragic. So too were the losses of a material kind where Fife firms were unable to win compensation for the depredations of the German state on their foreign holdings.

Workers at McIntoshs Kirkcaldy making aircraft wings. © Fife Cultural Trust on behalf of Fife Council.
Military Outfitter's Advert. © Fife Cultural Trust on behalf of Fife Council.