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Tyne and Wear HER(13373): Birtley, National Projectile Factory/Royal Ordnance Factory - Details

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Birtley, National Projectile Factory/Royal Ordnance Factory




Armament Manufacturing Site

Ordnance Factory



Demolished Building

At the beginning of the First World War Britain had insufficient ammunition to match that of the German army. The Government of National Unity built National Projectile Factories with private firms all over the country. There was a shortage of people to work in them however as able-bodied men were fighting on the frontline. Belgium was regarded as the foremost European country for the manufacture of armaments and so Belgian armaments workers and refugees were brought from the front to work in British factories. In 1915 several hundred Belgian workers came to two factories built by Armstrong Whitworth in Birtley to make shells and cartridge cases. The Birtley factory made empty shells which were filled with explosives at a sister site in South Wales. The number of workers soon grew to around 3000. A plan of 1916 shows railway sidings to the North Eastern Railway (HER 12965) and several buildings including machine shops for shells, a cartridge case shop, main store, canteen etc. These buildings still stand, along with several built in the Second World War (includes a medical surgery, boiler house, electricity substation, gatehouse with loop hole). There are air raid shelters beneath the canteen. Day-to-day control of the factory was managed by M. Hubert Debauche, Director-General of an iron and steel manufacturing firm, Societe des Forges, Usines et Fonderies de Gilly near Charleroi in Belgium. Gateshead Library has a large collection of photographs of the factory, machinery and personnel.



NZ26625619; McMurtie & Schlesinger, 1987, The Birtley Belgians (5th edition 2003); John G. Bygate, 2006, Arms & the Heroes; G. Nairn and D. Rand, 1997, Images of England - Birtley;; Brian Armstrong, 2012, They Made Ammunition at Birtley 1916-2012; Julie Pugh, TWM Archaeology, 2010, BAE Systems, Birtley, Gateshead - Archaeological Desk Based Assessment; J. Burrow and Co. Ltd (ed). 1969. Birtley Co. Durham: The Official Guide; Bygate, J.G. 2005. Of Arms and Heroes: The Story of the ‘Birtley Belgians’; Gateshead Council. 2010. The Changing Face of Birtley The Gateshead Towns and Villages Series (leaflet at Gateshead Library); Henderson, D. 2000. Memories and Photographs of the People of Birtley; Letch, H. 1970. Gleanings from the History of Birtley; Marshall, T. c.1980. Elisabethville: The Belgian Colony 1915-1918; Schlesinger, J. And McMurtie, D. 1988. The Birtley Belgians: A History of Elisabethville; Turnbull, L. c.1980. Glimpses of Old Birtley; Bygate, J. 2005. The riot at Elisabethville, Birtley. Durham County Local History Bulletin, 68 (Durham Record Office H6); Batho, G.R. and Faulkner, M. 2000. An Elisabethville Family: the Prowses, Durham County Local History Society Bulletin, 61 (Durham Record Office H6/9); Brown, M. 1990. The Belgian Colony at Elisabethville, Birtley. 1916-1919, Northern Catholic History, 31 (Durham Record Office H 7/4); Nairn, G. 1997. The Archive Photograph Series: Birtley; Burn, R.S, 1957, A recent history of Birtley Parish (Tyne and Wear Archives L/PA/252); The Belgian Community at Birtley (Tyne and Wear Archives L/PA/1545); Royal Ordnance. 1978. Royal Ordnance Factory, Birtley (Gateshead Library); Royal Ordnance. 1980. Royal Ordnance Factory, Birtley (Gateshead Library); Royal Ordnance. n.d. Ammuntion Division, Birtley (Gateshead Library); Microfilm LHR3: Elizabethville: Various documents relating to munitions factory (Gateshead Library); Dr George Nash, SLR Consulting, 2013 ROF Birtley, Station Lane, Birtley, Standing Building Survey; Dr George Nash, SLR Consulting, 2013 ROF Birtley, Station Lane, Birtley, Standing Building Survey

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