Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Chilwell Canaries & Explosion

Piper's session at the Nottinghamshire archives this morning meant we had to leave the house early, before 8am-almost unheard of during the week! I had pre-booked our train tickets but forgot my rail card thankfully the conductor didn't ask me for it!! We managed to arrive on time and were one of the first ones here, Piper started where she left off last time replacing the old folders for acid free folders until her partner arrived. The group managed to source a local historian who came to give a talk on an area of Nottingham called Chilwell. A huge ammunition factory was built there in September 1916 to help deal with the shell crisis, several million shells were filled there.

Godfrey Chetwynd was given the task of designing and building the factory and by all accounts was a pretty, lets say interesting guy!

There was a huge campaign for workers and many women aged 18-40 were recruited, they were paid a lot less than the men-(30 shillings for women in comparison to 2 pounds for the men) despite working just has hard. The women were nicknamed "The Canary Girls" because of the toxic chemicals used, they dyed the women's hands and faces yellow and if they had black hair it tuned green!

Some of the photos that were shown to us:

     

 

The workers were quite well looked after in the factory, there was a womens football team, cricket team, doctors and a dentist to attend to the workers and homemade meals. Although, Chetwynd was not very popular when he decided to stop payments for meals out of the workers wages.

On July the 1st 1918, 40 minutes after the shift changeover at 7.10pm there was a huge explosion involving eight tonnes of TNT. 134 People lost their lives and 250 were left injured.

A photo of the factory after the explosion:

  

Was a very interesting talk especially as Piper and I had never heard anything about it before now.

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