Who helped win the Great War

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS -

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.

Un­leashed

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

war ef­fort

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