100 Days Centenary Countdown: Places- Munitions Factories
This is our second ‘Places’ blog of our 100 Days Centenary Countdown. This series of ‘Places’ blogs will highlight some of the interesting Home Front sites that you can explore further. Although Home Front Legacy 1914-18 is now closed to new records, you can still access and explore our Map of Sites.
This week we’ll look at some of the munitions factories that were recorded by our volunteers, champions and project partners.
Munitions Factories during the First World War
Munitions factories and the work of women within them are one of the most readily remembered aspects of the First World War Home Front. As the country entered total war, production had to be ramped up to produce the necessary munitions required by the armed forces, especially those deployed on the Western Front.
When the war commenced in August 1914, the country’s munitions and armaments factories had been established to supply the relatively small peacetime army
Initially, existing factories were developed further and contracts were awarded by the government to private factories to produce munitions such as shells, bullets and explosives.
However, following the Shell Crisis of in 1915, the government established National Factories to ensure enough munitions were produced and regulate the quality of these munitions, ensuring that they worked correctly when used. Lloyd George introduced the Ministry of Munitions in June 1915, following the Shell Crisis scandal, which led to the creation of over 200 National Factories.
As more men were recruited into the military, or called up, women took on much of the work in the munitions factories, ensuring that munitions production was maintained.
Munitions factories were often categorised by their purpose. Below is a list of some of the munitions factories recorded on our Map of Site for you to investigate further.
These factories were responsible for filling newly produced shells with explosive. Explosive would have to be heated until molten to allow it to be poured into the empty shells. This was an extremely dangerous job where the risk of an accidental explosion was ever present. Barnbow and Chillwell both suffered major explosions during the war, killing large numbers of factory workers.
Glasgow, National Filling Factory No. 12- NS5298364365
Chilwell No.6- SK5070335004
Many different types of explosive and propellant were required for munitions. Everything from cordite, TNT, dynamite, lyddite, gun cotton, and gunpowder (to name a few propellants/explosives) had to be produced in vast quantities to supply the military. The process of producing explosive was highly toxic, with many female factory workers suffering from toxic jaundice which turned their skin yellow. Sometimes factory workers would die as a result of toxic jaundice. Their yellow complexion led to their nickname ‘Canaries’.
Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey- TL3767401400
Kynochs Munitions Works- TQ 74677 82781
Shell factories were responsible for manufacturing the large numbers of shells required by the army and navy. Our Map of Sites show that many of the National Factories were centred around metal production in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Nottingham, Springclose Works- SK5481938835
East Cumberland (Carlisle)- NY40405608
Spring Garden Iron Gardens, Aberdeen- NJ94030692
Metropolitan (Ailsa Craig)- TQ1949577755
Over to you!
There are any more munitions factories to be discovered on our Map of Sites! Explore below to find out more. You can also find out more about National Factories in ‘First World War National Factories:
An archaeological, architectural and historical review‘ by Historic England.
Over to you! Explore the Home Front Legacy Map of Sites to see what sites you can discover. Spotted something that isn’t recorded? Contact your local Historic Environment Record (HER) HERE to record your local First World War sites.
Be sure to join us next time for more Home Front Places.