North Haymarket Munitions Factory

Report on the operation of the Munitions Factory in North Haymarket.

The Liverpool Courier wrote a series of articles on ‘The wartime activities of the Liverpool Corporation ‘On 25th May 1920 their article on ‘The North Haymarket National Shell Factory’ reports:

“By the end of December, 1915, over 4,000 18-pounder high explosive shells were being manufactured per week, and a start was made in the manufacture of 4.5in. and 6in. high explosive shells. About this time it became necessary to instal a heating apparatus on the factory premises and accordingly two sets of high pressure heating systems were installed. In January, 1916, the first female workers in the factory commenced, a considerable number of the women being relatives of men serving in the Army of Navy. The women were most enthusiastic over the work and showed an eagerness to learn the different operations, the result being that after an average of four weeks’ training on a single operation they became quite proficient in that operation.

The women worked on a three-shift system of approximately eight hours each, while the men worked on a two-shift system of approximately twelve hours each. Although in the majority of cases this was the first time the women had experienced night shift working, they very soon adapted themselves to the new conditions. At this time the factory was working seven days per week. A canteen was erected on the factory premises, with seating accommodation for 600 persons, where the workers could either be provided with good substantial and well cooked food at the lowest possible prices, or where, if the preferred to carry their own provisions with them, they could have these re-heated, and have their meals in comparative comfort.

By the autumn of 1916 all the operations in the manufacture of shells were carried out by female labour, and skilled labour was only used for supervision, tool-making and the up-keep of plant. The factory was now working to the percentage of female and male labour required by the authorities, i.e., females 85 per cent. and males 15 per cent.

 In October, 1916, a War Savings scheme was inaugurated, and at the end of the first year the factory had the honour of being at the head of all other factories in the Liverpool district. As a result of a special effort on the occasion of the “Victory War Loan,” over £1,000 was subscribed in one week through the Factory War Savings Association, and a letter of congratulations was received from the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this result.

On the 15th May, 1917, the factory was honoured by a visit from his Majesty the King. On arrival at the factory his Majesty was received by the Lord Mayor (Mr. Max Muspratt, C.C.), who presented members of the Liverpool Munitions of War
Committee and officials. During his tour through the factory his Majesty congratulated the City Engineer upon the organisation and lay-out of the factory.

A few days before Easter, 1918, which was the period of the great German offensive, special and urgent instructions were received from the Ministry of Munitions and arrangements were immediately made to utilise every available employee, and to put every suitable machine on to the manufacture of 6in. shells. The workers were informed of this special appeal and unanimously promised not only to work through the whole of the holiday period, but to do their very utmost to increase the shell output.

 As an example of the spirit of the workers it might be mentioned that on the Good Friday morning, when the day shift work commenced there was not one absentee. In several instances the women had walked as far as five miles to their work, and most of them were at the factory some time before the official time for starting. The Liverpool Munitions of War Committee visited the factory during the day and congratulated some of these women upon their magnificent achievement.

 Shortly after the Armistice was signed, instructions were received to discontinue night shift working, and accordingly approximately 400 women and 150 men were discharged during the week ending 26th November, and night shift work
ceased from that date. Further instructions were then received for the demobilisation of the factory as rapidly as possible, and with this object in view a number of employees were discharged each week until the week ending 14th December, when the whole of the women were discharged and the remainder of the men, with the exception of those required for dismantling purposes.”

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