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A glimpse into life at munition factory; Search under way for more artefacts.


Members of the public have come forward with some fascinating objects with connections to Dumfriessshire's First World War munitions factory.

A global search is under way to unearth precious artefacts and information on those who worked there more than 100 years ago.

The Devil's Porridge Museum at Eastriggs tells the story of the "greatest munitions factory on earth" which was top secret, involved 30,000 who came from all over the Commonwealth to offer their services and which gave the region two settlements - Eastriggs and Gretna.

Staff and volunteers have appealed to the public for help to find out more about the workforce and recently launched the Miracle Workers Research Project.

They are currently recruiting local and remote volunteers to help out.

In the meantime, new objects have recently come to light and have led to more information about the people who turned the tide of the Great War with their cordite production at HM Factory Gretna.

One item is a pocket watch which is engraved with the words "H. M. Works Gretna presented to J C Meldon by workers on Hill No. 2 July 1916" on one side.

It is believed it belonged to James Charles Meldon who was a successful electrical engineer from Ireland but his involvement with the HM Factory Gretna is still something of a mystery.

Research assistant Laura Noakes said they are trying to work out answers to the puzzles raised by the watch.

She said: "The Hill mentioned is shorthand for the Nitro-Glycerine Hill. This is where crucial ingredients needed to make cordite were fed into the corditemaking process by gravity.

"The engraving suggests that J C Meldon was involved, in some way, in this particular area of the factory.

"The date engraved on the watch also gives us some more clues about Mr Meldon's time at the Factory as July, 1916, was not long after the factory started production.

"Coupled with his career as an electrical engineer, we are now wondering if Mr Meldon was involved in the construction of the factory - perhaps installing electrics? Or, perhaps he helped to construct the huge power station which generated electricity for the factory and workers' housing?"

Another item shared with the museum is a photograph of a cigarette case which belonged to Herbert Womersley who worked at the factory in the latter part of WW1 as a chemist.

After the war, Mr Womersley emigrated to Australia and became a renowned entomologist and the team also has a photograph of him with his wife, Alice, in Adelaide, South Australia.

Laura said: "These two objects show the amazing stories different people have in their families and suggests there are fascinating objects yet to be discovered.

"We'd love to know more about them and the people they belonged to.

"If anyone has any objects they think could be connected to H M Factory Gretna, please get in touch."

There are plans to stage an exhibition showcasing the hard work of volunteers and sharing previously unknown stories with the public.

And the next steps will be to interview people whose families had connections with the factory for a film.


Artefact This cigarette case belonged to Herbert Womersley, who worked as a chemist at H M Factory Gretna in the latter part of WW1 before returning to Australia where he became a renowned entomologist.

Couple Back home in Adelaide, South Australia, Herbert Womersley is pictured with his wife Alice.

At work This huge power station generated electricity for the factory and workers'houses.
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Publication:Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 2, 2021
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