The meeting was opened at 1030 a.m. by Chairman Michael Cochrane who advised of one apology. In the audience we were pleased to see Tom Snelling’s grandson. Chairman Mike advised that John Taylor was still looking for two members to each do a ten minute talk on Member’s Morning on Tuesday April 16th.

Today saw Speaker Mr Eric Jackson make his debut at the Forum with his talk on “The Barnbow Munitions Works” or to give it it’s more sexed up title The National Shell Filling Factory Number1!! Also covered was the explosion and loss of life their in 1916. The genesis of this talk came from Eric noticing the names of Jane Few and Helena Beckett on the World War One Memorial at All Saints Church Pontefract, something unusual on War Memorials and normally a male preserve.

At the outbreak of World War One the country was not prepared for a continental war with a failure to appreciate what a modern industrial conflict would entail. Big Guns using explosive shells as opposed to infantry type shrapnel shells would be needed to combat trench warfare. Royal Ordinance Factories and British Industry had to be put on a war footing with the amount of munitions needed and to be used enormous. (1012 shells used every five minutes day and night.) 170 million shells were used in total during the conflict. The Shell crisis in 1915 with a lack of high explosive munitions limited our success in comparison to the French Forces. Asquith’s government fell and David Lloyd George took office and mobilised a massive expansion of munition producing factories. The site at Barnbow was built as a shell filling factory and in four months was established. Shell cases were transported there by rail and mainly small sized shells were filled with explosives—a technically dangerous and hazardous process. Barnbow was a huge site with its own railway station, lines and engines; its own fire brigade; dentists and nurses were on site and it had its own farm for food products particularly milk.. The work was dangerous to health with skin yellowing and anaemia endemic with prolonged exposure leading to illnesses and even death.

On December 5th 1916 in Hut 42 (fusing room) a violent explosion saw 35 women and girl workers killed and many injured. William Parkin stands out as a hero on the day helping rescue and remove injured personnel. Further explosive incidents and fatalities (low numbers) occurred in 1917 and 1918 respectively. The site closed shortly after the Armistice and Eric advised of the memorials to the deceased at the roundabout in Leeds Crossgates and also at Colton Parish Church. He concluded his talk by mentioning the similar role carried out at Thorpe Arch during World War Two.

The morning’s proceedings were well received and enthusiastic members asked a number of questions or made comments on what they had heard.

The Vote of Thanks on behalf of thirty six attendees was given by Tom Snelling.


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