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National Projectile Factories

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WWI A series of factories established to produce heavy shells.


The armament firms were strongly opposed to the Ministry of Munitions setting up new independent production centres for heavy shells and, instead, agreed to set up their own new factories as an extension to their existing works. The new factories would be Government property and the armament firms were responsible for the design, construction and to provide managers to run them as agents for the Ministry. One example, the firm of Cammell Laird, refused to take any commission for the erection and management of the factory that they set up in Nottingham. All new factory designs had to be submitted to the Ministry for approval and their erection was supervised by the Office of Works. But progress was so slow so, in October 1915, John Hunter of Sir William Arrol and Co. Ltd. was appointed as Director of Factory Construction.

1916 Michael Bruce Urquhart Dewar was appointed Director of National Projectile Factories and Assistant Controller of Shell Manufacture

The National Projectile Factory at Birtley was adjacent to an existing works of Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth and Company and was taken over by the Belgian Government for munitions work. To house the workforce, a model village called Elizabethville (after the Belgian Queen) was constructed from September 1915 by Belgian labour. Single-storey accommodation was provided for 1,600 workers and included 325, three bedroom, 342 two bedroom cottages, 22 timber huts, 24 hostels for single workers and two large dining halls. The village was run on military lines with its own local government, cemetery, church and hospital but opposition to the administration culminated in a serious riot in December 1916. The result was that Belgian Gendarmes were withdrawn and substituted by British Police, and army discipline was relaxed. The workforce were repatriated to Belgium from 7 December 1918 and the houses were then transferred to the Ministry of Labour.[1]

NPF sites

* NPF Ailsa Craig, Stand-on-Green, Chiswick

Original function: motor works of the Ailsa Craig Motor Co. On same site as National Shell factory

* NPF Birtley (A and B) - Elisabethville [2]

Construction started: August 1915 - April 1916. Contractor: Sir WG Armstrong Whitworth & Company Ltd. Opened: August 1916. Area: (A) 9 acres (B) 52 acres. Management: Belgian Government. Munitions: (A) cartridge cases, (B) shell projectile factory 4in, 4.5in, 60-pdr., 6in and 8in. shell. Notes: i) the main works of Armstrong Whitworth were at Elswick. ii) administration and labour at Birtley provided by the Belgian Government. iii) Site sold at the end of 1919 to Sir William Angus Sanderson.

* NPF Cathcart - "Holme Foundry" (Glasgow)

Construction started: September 1915. Contractor: G. and J. Weir. Opened: April 1916. Management: G & J Weir. Munitions: 8in shell and aeronautical work Notes: built adjacent to the company's factory at Minto Avenue, Cathcart.

* NPF Darlington

Existing works of North Eastern Railway Company. Contractor: Sir WG Armstrong Whitworth & Company Ltd. Opened: July 1916 (nationalised). Area: 2 acres, land owned by the North Eastern Railway Company Ltd. Management: North Eastern Railway Company Ltd. Munitions: 18-pdr. HE shell and 6in shell; naval practice shot. Notes: i) NE Railway Company acted as sub-contractors to Armstrong Whitworth; the factory was built adjacent to locomotive works. ii) not strictly a NPF, but a nationalised munitions factory specialising in large shells.

* NPF Dudley - Waddam's Pool[3]

Construction started: August 1915 on land acquired from Messrs A Harper Sons & Bean Ltd at Waddams Pool.
Contractor: Harper Sons and Bean Ltd. Opened: 27 May 1916. Management: Bean and Sons Ltd. Munitions: 6in HE, 8in shell, 18-pdr., 60-pdr. shrapnel, as well as gun repair and aero engine work. Capacity reached in 1917 was 6,000 6in and 15,000 60pdr shrapnel shells produced per week. Latterly the 60pdr work was turned over to chemical shells. In October 1918 the factory had 5,767 employees of whom 44.4% were women.[4]

* NPF Glasgow - Cardonald - Paisley

Construction started: August 1915. Contractor: William Beardmore and Co Ltd. Opened: March 1916. Area: 8.25 acres, land owned by Sir William Beardmore. Management: Sir William Beardmore & Company Ltd. Munitions: 18-pdr., 6in and 8in shell. Notes: also known as Craigton.

* NPF Glasgow - Mile End- "Grant's Mill"

Construction started: existing building. Opened: late 1916. Management: Sir William Beardmore & Company Ltd. Munitions: 6in and 60-pdr. HE shell. Notes: factory used existing cotton mill at Bridgeton.

* NPF Glasgow - Mossend

Construction started: August 1915. Opened: November 1916. Management: Sir William Beardmore & Company Ltd. Munitions: shell forgings 9.2in, 6in, and 60-pdr. HE shells. Notes: built adjacent to existing Beardmore factory.

* NPF Hackney Marshes - London[5]

Construction started: 15 October - 26 February 1916. Contractor: Dick Kerr & Company Ltd. Opened: February 1916. Management: Dick Kerr & Company Ltd. Munitions: 6in HE steel (chemical) and 6in cast-iron (HE).

* NPF Lancaster

Construction started: 11 September 1915. Contractor: Vickers Ltd. Opened: November 1916. Area: 33 acres. Management: Vickers Ltd. Munitions: grenade mortars, 9.2in, 6in, 8in and 60 pdr. shell, repair and trench warfare work.

* NPF Leeds - Armley Road, Huntley and Hunslet

Previously National Fuse Factories

* NPF Nottingham (King Meadow Road)[6]

Construction started: September 1915. Contractor: Cammell Laird and Co Ltd. Opened: March 1916. Area: 14 acres. Management: Cammell Laird & Company Ltd. Munitions: 9.2in and 6in shells and making 18-pdr. Guns. Notes: became National Ordnance Factory (1917-1918).

* NPF Ponders End (Middlesex)

Construction started: 1914. Opened: 1914 and nationalised 1917. Management: Rees Roturbo Manufacturing Co. Munitions: 6in, 8in, 12in, shell and repairing guns. Notes: not strictly a NPF, but a nationalised factory that specialised in large shells.

* NPF Renfrew "Aisne" Factory

Construction started: November 1915. Contractor: Babcock and Wilcox Ltd. Opened: May 1916. Area: 10 acres. Management: Babcock and Wilcox Ltd. Munitions: factory built for mashing 60-pdr. Shrapnel. Notes: built adjacent to "Ypres" factory and existing works of Babcock & Wilcox Ltd.

* NPF Renfrew "Ypres" Factory

Construction started: September 1915. Contractor: Babcock and Wilcox Ltd. Opened: July 1916. Area: 6 acres. Management: Babcock and Wilcox Ltd. Munitions: 9.2in and 12in forgings and shell.

* NPF Sheffield - Tinsley and Templeborough

Construction started: September 1915. Contractor: Hadfield Ltd. Opened: January 1916. Management: T Firth & Sons Ltd. Munitions: 9.2in shell 60-pdr. HE shell forgings and gun repairs. Notes: built adjacent to the existing T Firth Ltd. factory at Tinsley. Became a National Ordnance Factory.

* NPF Sheffield - East Hecla Works

Construction started: September 1915 Contractor: Firth Ltd. Opened: March 1916 Area: 14.75 acres owned by Hadfield Ltd. Management: Hadfield Ltd. Munitions: 9.2in HE shell; 60-pdr. guns and gun repairs Notes: i) built adjacent to Hadfield’s works. ii) became a National Ordnance Factory in February 1918.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Munitions Factories [1]
  2. See Gateshead[2]
  3. Biography of Sir Reginald Pearson, ODNB [3]
  4. First World War National Factories; English Heritage
  5. Imperial War Museum [4]
  6. Wikipedia [5]
  • National Factory Scheme [6]