His Majesty’s Explosive Factory – Ellesmere Port

Facility Type & Function:

His Majesty’s Explosives Factory (H.M.E.F.) – The manufacture of arsenic compounds and synthetic phenol by synthesis from benzene, although by 1918 both these plants were converted to production of ingredients for poison gas (Note 1).

Brief History:

Construction on this purpose-built chemical works commenced in March 1916. Production started in May 1917.

The works were located on a 5 acre plot of land belonging to an adjacent (west) Portland Cement Works. The plant itself covered an area of 410,601 square feet. It was managed by the Government’s Explosives Supply Department.

The site of H.M.E.F – Ellsesmere Port (centre) as it was in 1938.

It is believed the plant work force numbered only 100 or so workers. During 1918 two of these men were killed by an escape of poisonous gras from the process. Such releases were not confined to this one instance.

Nothing now remains of the site, apart from two possible building footprints. Other than these the site has been re-developed.

Location Details:

South bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, Stanlow, Ellesmere Port. Cheshire – National Factory Area No.2

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type I

Function: Unknown (Note 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  32.1 mm

Obverse: Incuse legend in two lines reads H.M. FACTORY / E.P. In between the incusely stamped identification number 347   in the centre field.

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1915 to 1918

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Unknown


Notes:

  1. Phenol is one of the two chemical components used in the manufacture of Lyddite or piric acid. Prior to 1914 this was the principal high explosive shell filling used by the British Army and Navy. While its production continued throughout the Great War its use was eclipsed by that of TNT (Tri-nitro-Toluene).
  2. This check was possibly used as a worker’s security/identification pass similar to the one shown below which is being worn for safe keeping by a munition worker around her neck along with her change room locker key.


 

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