Great War Centenary

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National Munitions Factories


Prior to the war production of munitions relied on a small number of sites, the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey, and the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield supplemented by manufacturers such as Vickers Armstrong and Cammell Laird. The Royal Navy had a Cordite Factory at Holton Heath, Dorset.

Together with a stockpile this was estimated to provide the British Expeditionary Force with material for four major battles. Expansion of the Ordnance Factories and the private manufacturers managed to almost quadruple production in the first year but even this proved insufficient to meet demand given the number of men in arms and the changing nature of the conflict leading to a shell shortage in the summer of 1915.

To meet the demand powers were taken to establish National Factories for Shells, Shell Filling, Arms, Explosives, Aircraft etc.

However, it is worth considering when looking at the relatively small outputs of individual factories that in the bombardment preceding the Somme offensive 1.5 million shells were fired with a further 250000 used on the 1st July 1916 itself.

Royal Arsenal, Woolwich
TQ4378 : Woolwich Arsenal Gatehouse by Stephen Craven TQ4379 : Royal Brass Foundry, Royal Arsenal by David Anstiss TQ4379 : Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum, Royal Arsenal by David Anstiss TQ4379 : Royal Arsenal by N Chadwick TQ4379 : Royal Arsenal, Woolwich - Dial Arch by N Chadwick TQ4379 : Building 45, Royal Arsenal by David Anstiss

In 1914 the Woolwich Arsenal employed 10,866, rising to 30,000 by 10 January 1915 and 74,467 by mid May 1915. To meet the demand for housing for the workers the Ministry of Munitions, Office of Works and Local Government agreed to build an estate of 1200 houses at Well Hall in Eltham on 9th January 1915. The first houses were occupied by July 1915 and all houses were complete by December 1915. The estate was on a tram and later bus route but lacked shops and schools. The estate has 'garden village' and 'Arts and Crafts' influences as designs were not standard and used materials that could be sourced due to shortages.

TQ4275 : Downman Road, SE9 by Danny P Robinson TQ4275 : Granby Road, Eltham by Chris Heaton TQ4275 : Moira Road, Eltham by Chris Whippet

Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey
TL3700 : Royal Gunpowder Factory by John M TL3701 : Royal Gunpowder Factory by John M TL3701 : Royal Gunpowder Factory by John M TL3700 : Power house, Royal Gunpowder Factory by Chris Allen TL3701 : Royal Gunpowder Factory by John M

Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield
TQ3798 : Enfield Island Village by Peter Horrex TQ3798 : Enfield Island Village by Jack Hill TQ3798 : Part of the old Small Arms Factory by Des Blenkinsopp TQ3798 : Terrace on Government Row by Robin Webster TQ3798 : River Lee Basin, Enfield Island Village by Christine Matthews
The factory produced the Standard Issue Short Lee-Enfield Rifle MkIII. Over two million were produced during the war.

Royal Navy Cordite Factory, Holton Heath, Dorset
SY9490 : Holton Heath: postbox № BH16 129, Station Road by Chris Downer SY9490 : Holton Heath, Navy building by Mike Faherty

Gretna & Eastriggs
NY3167 : The Institute (Richard Greenhow Centre) - Gretna Garden City by John M NY3167 : Cinema - Gretna Garden City by John M NY3167 : Central Avenue Shops - Gretna Garden City by John M NY3167 : Former police barracks - Gretna Garden City by John M NY3167 : All Saints, Gretna by Richard Dorrell

At Gretna a new town was built to accommodate the many thousands of women munitions workers including hutted accommodation, a cinema, shops and churches.
LinkExternal link

NY2466 : Ladysmith Road, Eastriggs by Jim Barton NY2566 : Pretoria Road, Eastriggs by Jim Barton NY2465 : The Ridge, Eastriggs by Jim Barton NY2466 : The Rand, Eastriggs by Jim Barton NY2466 : St John's Episcopal Church at Eastriggs by Walter Baxter NY2466 : Wayside Inn Eastriggs by John Firth NY2466 : Row of shops at Eastriggs by Oliver Dixon

A new village was constructed near Riggs to house workers. The streets take their names from around the Empire.

National Ordnance Factory, Newlay, Leeds
SE2436 : National Ordnance Factory, Newlay, Leeds by Mark Stevenson SE2436 : National Ordnance Factory, Newlay, Leeds by Mark Stevenson SE2436 : National Ordnance Factory, Newlay, Leeds by Mark Stevenson SE2436 : National Ordnance Factory, Newlay, Leeds by Mark Stevenson SE2436 : National Ordnance Factory, Newlay, Leeds by Mark Stevenson

Premises rented from Schoen Wheel Company Ltd (railway wheels) in 1916 to manufacture 9.2" and 15" shells.
LinkExternal link

National Shell Factory, East Cumberland, Carlisle
NY4056 : The former Drill Hall, frontage on Strand Road by Rose and Trev Clough

Former Drill Hall used from September 1915 to manufacture 18-pdr high explosive and smoke shells.

National Shell Factory, Rawtenstall & Bacup No 1, Lancashire
SD8622 : Health Centre by robert wade
A weaving shed at Irwell Mill was used from 1915 to manufacture 4.5" shells.

National Shell Factory, Manchester
SJ8597 : Bus Depot by N Chadwick
The Hyde Road Tram Depot was taken over in October 1915 to manufacture 4.5" shells. The workforce of around 250 delivered 2000 shells per week.

National Shell Factory, Birmingham
SP1088 : Metro Cammell Carriage & Wagon Works Main Office Block by David Stowell SP1089 : Old Alstom railway works at Washwood Heath by John Winder
Parts of the Midland Railway Company Carriage Works at Washwood Heath were taken over in June 1915 to manufacture 4.5" shells later expanding production to 18pdr and 9.2" shells. The workforce of up to 2400 delivered a maximum of 12000 shells per week.

National Shell Factory/National Projectile Factory, Chiswick
TQ1977 : House at site of former Malt House, Strand on the Green by PAUL FARMER
Former malthouse and later motor works of the Alisa Craig Motor Company, engaged in production of 4.5" shell was taken over in July 1916 with a workforce of 600 delivering 5000 shells per week.

National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, Nottingham
SK5035 : War Memorial by Andy Jamieson
The factory employed 10000 workers and produced nearly 20 million high explosive shells representing half of the nation's output. The work was dangerous and this memorial is to the 141 killed including the 134 lost in an explosion on 1st July 1918 where only 32 bodies were identified.

National Gauge Factory, Birmingham
SP0586 : Factory building on Great Tindal Street by Steve Daniels
Chatwin & Co's existing business at Victoria Works was taken over for the production of standardised tools and gauges. The main output was small tools, taps and dies.

Anti-Gas Factory, Holloway
TQ2986 : Elthorne Road, Archway by Chris Whippet
Bett's lead foil lining factories at Batavia and Holloway Mills were taken over in August 1918. By November the business had produced 55140 'Green Band' respirators and accessories.

National Machine Gun Factory, Branston, Staffordshire
SK2321 : National Machine Gun Factory - Offices by John M SK2321 : National Machine Gun Factory - Gatehouse by John M SK2321 : National Machine Gun Factory - Canteen by John M SK2321 : National Machine Gun Factory - Canteen by John M

Completed in 1919.

Royal Naval Torpedo Factory, Greenock, Renfrewshire
NS2577 : Former torpedo factory at Fort Matilda by Thomas Nugent NS2577 : Old Torpedo Factory by Thomas Nugent NS2577 : Sweetie Factory by Thomas Nugent NS2577 : Funworld, Greenock by Thomas Nugent NS2577 : Former torpedo factory by Thomas Nugent

Relocated from Woolwich in 1910-12.

There is a fairly consistent approach with Ministry of Munitions factories that the buildings are constructed to a high quality with architectural detailing and provide canteen facilities. The welfare of the workers is considered and their accommodation. The housing draws on the 'Garden Town' principles and was by leading town planners and architects. Their success is perhaps that these estates are largely intact after 100 years and are still desirable places to live and can be seen as a step in the development of post war council housing.

KML

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