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Chilwell - National Shell Filling Factory Explosion

Memorial located within Chetwynd Barracks Chilwell which now occupies the factory site.

UKNIWM Ref - 26873

The National Shell Filling Factory was a purpose built factory. The site at Chilwell was chosen because it had good transport access, a nearby population and was surrounded by high ground (in case of accident). The factory began production on 8 January 1916, less than 4 months after work on the building began on 13 September 1915 under the direction of Godfrey John Boyle, 8th Viscount Chetwynd, and the supervision of the chief engineer, Albert Hall. The facilities for employees included a Red Cross Hospital, a canteen, rest rooms, a recreation club and sports facilities. The factory had produced 1 million shells by September 1916; NSFF filled 60% of the shells used during the war as well as filling 25,000 mines for the Royal Navy and 2.500 large bombs for the Royal Flying Corps/RAF. The NSFF achieved a national record on 15 June 1918 when workers filled 46,725 shells in one 24 hour period. At its peak, the factory employed 6,000 men and 4.000 women. The explosion on 1 July 1918 killed 134 workers, the majority of whom would never be identified, and wounded 250 others; five dying later of their injuries. The first funeral was held on 4 July 1918; of the 34 bodies which were buried in a mass grave only one could be identified. A Home Office inquiry was convened on 8 July 1918 and closed on 7 August 1918; the report was classified 'secret' but the cause of the explosion was believed to have been accidental. On 13 March 1919, the Duke of Portland, the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, unveiled a memorial on the site of the explosion. A memorial was also erected on the site of the factory. Nottingham Evening Post, 2 July 1919: ‘The Chilwell Disaster. Memorial Service at Attenborough. The greatest local tragedy associated with the war was doubtless the explosion at the Chilwell National Shell-Filling Factory, which occurred on July 1st, 1918, when 134 men and women were killed and 240 injured. … The main road, now known as Chetwynd-road, in the works, was thrown open both before and after the service, when a large number of the public visited the obelisk erected to the memory of the killed. This was beautifully decorated with garlands of evergreens, and the colours of the RAO reversed draping the top. At the base were placed many wreaths which included those sent by Col. Howie Jones, one from the Chilwell Workers, one from the Woolwich Arsenal, two from the late workers in the mills (when the explosion occurred), and a number of relatives.’ Note: 30 victims of the explosion were buried in Attenborough churchyard.(www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) Nottingham Evening Post, 29 July 1920: ‘Chilwell Heroes. Unveiling of memorial at Attenborough. A large congregation assembled at Attenborough Church last evening on the occasion of the unveiling by the Duke of Portland of a memorial erected on the grave of the men and women victims of the Chilwell explosion interred in the churchyard. The Rev. WM Brown, Vicar of Bramcote, conducted the service in the church, and was assisted by the Rev. WP Cole Sheane (vicar of Beeston), and the Ven. Archdeacon of Nottingham, who preached the sermon. The memorial is in the form of an oak cross, designed by Major Valon, similar in pattern to the crosses on the graves in France. It is 10ft. In height, and stands on a three tier base, the whole being enclosed by chains fixed to panelled oak posts, and is inscribed with the date of the explosion, and to the memory of those who met their death. The Rev. WM Brown explained that the cost had been met by efforts made at the Chilwell depot and generous outside assistance, and funds over and above the actual cost would be held in reserve for the upkeep. The relatives of the killed and members of the congregation were invited to inspect the memorial erected in the Chilwell Depot, and a large number availed themselves of the opportunity. The large grave and the six separate graves wherein the bodies of the identified repose were covered with floral tributes.’ (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

Memorial location
Names on Memorial

Willie J Ablard - Willie Ablard

Robert J Aitken - Robert Aitken

Thomas Attenborough - Thomas Attenborough

Percy G Austin - Percy George Austin

James S Aylward - James Aylward

Samuel Bailey - Samuel Bailey

Arthur G Barker - Arthur Barker

Frederick W Barratt - Frederick Barratt

Abraham E Bartlett - Abraham Bartlett

Thomas Bartlett - Thomas Bartlett

Norah Bates - Norah Bates

Annie Benson - Annie Benson

Albert E Blackler - Albert Blackler

Grace Bolton - Grace Bolton

Markham M Boot - Markham Boot

William J Bradley - William Bradley

Elizabeth Brown - Elizabeth Brown

Charles E Browne - Charles Browne

Frederick W Calcott - Frederick Calcott

Louie Chaplin - Louie Chaplin

William H Chapman - William Chapman

Frank Cheetham - Frank Cheetham

Fanny Clarke - Fanny Clarke

Arthur O Clayton - Arthur Oswald Clayton

George T Clayton - George Clayton

James Cornell - James Cornell

Mary Crossland - Mary Crossland

Gertrude Cursley - Gertrude Cursley

Thomas Davis - Thomas Davis

Frederick Dent - Frederick Dent

Thomas Dexter - Thomas Dexter

Alfred Dickinson - Alfred Dickinson

Frederick JH Dove - Frederick James Dove

JC Dowd - JC Dowd

Gilbert Doyle - Gilbert Doyle

John Draper - John Draper

Samuel Draper - Samuel Draper

William T Eaton - William Eaton

William Eaves - William Eaves

Mary E Elliott - Mary Elisabeth Elliott

Lily Elliott - Lily Elliott

Arthur H Ellis - Arthur Ellis

Jane Elston - Jane Elston

Matthew E Elston - Matthew Elston

Arthur W Felton - Arthur Felton

HS Ford - HS Ford

Annie Freeman - Annie Freeman

Hannah Freer - Hannah Freer

Thomas Fuller - Thomas Fuller

Luther Gee - Luther Plantagenet Gee

Elsie L Gibbs - Elsie Gibbs

Alfred Gilbert - Alfred Gilbert

Walter Gill - Walter Gill

John Gissing - John Gissing

William H Gobey - William Gobey

Albert C Godfrey - Albert Godfrey

William Greensmith - William Greensmith

Percy G Greig - Percy Greig

Ernest A Guyler - Ernest Arthur Guyler

Nellie Hall - Nellie Hall

Wilfred Hall - Wilfred Hall

Richard Hallam - Richard Hallam

Albert E Harrison - Albert Edward Harrison

Charlotte Herridge - Charlotte Herridge

Samuel Hewitt - Samuel Hewitt

John W Hill - John Hill

James Hollis - James Hollis

William R Howarth - William Robert Howarth

Walter Hudson - Walter Hudson

Richard Ironmonger - Richard Ironmonger

William Johnson - William Johnson

William H Kay - William Kay

Harry King - Harry King

James Leafe - James Leafe

George Leighton - George Leighton

Florence Lindley - Florence Lindley

John Loake - John Loake

Leopold Loupart - Leopold Loupart

Albert Love - Albert Love

Rowland Marlton - Rowland Marlton

George Martin - George Martin

William McConnell - William McConnell

Samuel H McGowan - Samuel McGowan

George Messenger - George Messenger

James Milligan - James Milligan

William Millington - William Millington

Thomas H Mills - Thomas Mills

Frank Monger - Frank Monger

Lily Morriss - Lily Morriss

Nellie Moulds - Nellie Moulds

William Newall - William Newall

David J Palmer - David Palmer

William T Peck - William Peck

Herbert Pendleton - Herbert Pendleton

HG Pendrill - Herbert George Pendrell

Wilfred Pickersgill - Wilfred Pickersgill

Levi Poulter - Levi Poulter

George Rawlings - George Rawlings

John Raynor - John Raynor

Clement E Reed - Clement Reed

Edith F Roache - Edith Roache

Harry C Robins - Harry Robins

Elsie Robinson - Elsie Robinson

Albert E Ross - Albert Ross

Joseph H Sellwood - Joseph Hinton Sellwood

George E Sewell - George Sewell

Richard Sharpe - Richard Sharpe

Alfred Short - Alfred Thomas Short

George A Shrives - George Shrives

Ernest Silburn - Ernest Silburn

Harry Simmons - Harry Simmons

Arthur Smith - Arthur Smith

Tom Smith - Tom Smith

James A Spencer - James Spencer

Reginald Stafford - Reginald Stafford

Stella Staniland - Stella Staniland

William W Stanley - William Stanley

Robert Steel - Robert Steel

Frederick Surman - Frederick Surman

Fred Swift - Fred Swift

William Tanner - William Tanner

Fanny Taylor - Fanny Taylor

Arthur Taylor - Arthur Taylor

John J Thompson - John Joseph Thompson

Thomas Thornton - Thomas Thornton

Arthur Vance - Arthur Vance

William JL Villiars - William Villiars

William Walker - William Walker

Albert H Wallis - Albert Wallis

Eliza Ward - Eliza Ward

William Ward - William Ward

George Ware - George Ware

Harry Warsop - Harry Warsop

Samuel Watson - Samuel Watson

John W Whitton - John Whitton

Harry Windsor - Harry Windsor

Rose Wood - Rose Wood

Thomas W Wood - Thomas Wood

Walter Woodruff - Walter Woodruffe

Harry A Wragg - Harry Wragg

Albert Younger - Albert Younger

  • Memorial located within Chetwynd Barracks Chilwell which now occupies the factory site.
    Photos John Cotterill - Memorial located within Chetwynd Barracks Chilwell which now occupies the factory site.
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  • Mass grave in St Mary Magdalene Churchyard Attenborough of over 130 unidentifiable victims of the explosion on July 1st 1918.
    Photo David Nunn - Mass grave in St Mary Magdalene Churchyard Attenborough of over 130 unidentifiable victims of the explosion on July 1st 1918.