Who helped win the Great War
been chosen for a National Projectile Factory, the contractor of which was Harper Sons and Bean Ltd. Work began in August 1915 and the factory opened for the first time on May 27, 1916. It was managed by Bean and Sons Ltd and straightaway the production of 6in HH, 8in shells, 18-pdr, 60 pdr, and shrapnel shells began. Later in the war aero-engines were also made at the Waddams Pool factory. According to a business directory (year unknown) there were 3,192 male and 2,563 female employees working long hours at the N.P.F. in Dudley. Another factory managed by Messrs Bean and Son was the National Fuze Factory at Tipton which employed 1,039 men and 2,022 women.
Recruitment of women was essential to make the new national factories work to full capacity. When conscription was introduced in January 1916 for all single men aged between 18 and 41, followed in May by the conscription of married men, it fell to women to fill the vacant positions and they responded in huge numbers helped by governement campaigns and recruitment drives. Women also took jobs as railway guards, ticket collectors, bus and tram conductors, postal workers, police, firefighters and as bank tellers and clerks. Some women also worked heavy precision machinery in engineering, led cart horses on farms and worked in the civil service. A revolution in the work place had occurred because of the war and the pressure it had brought to bear especially in terms of munitions production. These women were the forgotten army whose efforts ultimately led to victory.
This story tells us how urgent it was to build the National Projectile Factories in 1916, and is put in perspective by the following statistics. Just before the Somme offensive began on July 1st 1916 there was a week long bombardment by the British on the German lines. The mighty guns of the artillery unleashed a staggering 1,738,000 shells, and in total by the end of the war 170 million shells had been fired.
The National Projectile Factory site at Waddams Pool is still occupied 100 years later by The Alan Nuttall Partnership and we are grateful to Annemarie Richardson, Brand, Design and Events Manager at Nuttalls, for sending these splendid and iconic photographs of Black Country munition workers working at Waddams Pool circa 1917/18. Also we thank Tom Larkin for his imput into the research of this article.
With the National Projectile Factory built and manned by a huge workforce, existing transport arrangements found it difficult to cope with the huge increase in passengers. Dudley people were insufficient in number to run the factory on their own, so people from elsewhere in the Black Country were encouraged to fill the vacancies.
In February 1917 a report was published that claimed one of the drawbacks arising from the government’s decision to establish a purpose built weapons factory in Dudley was the huge increase in passengers, mainly women, travelling daily from other Black Country towns putting a strain on the service. As a result large demands were being put on council run buses. This was just one aspect of normal daily life that had been upset by the war, but a necessary evil that had to be accepted.
Have you anyone in your family who worked at a Black Country munitions factory during the Great War? If you have a story to tell please contact jwork[email protected]country bugle.co.uk, or phone 01384 880533, or write J. Workman, Black Country Bugle, Dudley Archives Centre, Tipton Road, DY1 4SQ.
s Pool, Dudley, circa 1917/18
One of the posters that aided the government’s recruitment drive to get women to work
Waddams Pool munitions factory WWI