His Majesty’s Explosives Factory – Pembrey & National Filling Factory No.18 – Pembrey-Burry Port

Facility Type & Function:

His Majesty’s Explosives Factory (H.M.E.F.) –  Production of the explosives TNT and tetryl plus the propellants  cordite and ballistite.

National Filling Factory (N.F.F.) – Filling of explosives into filling 4.5″, 6″ and 8″ shells plus torpedoes and mines. In addition it was engaged in the decommissioning of defective shells and subsequent recovery of Amatol explosives.

Brief History:

This site comprised two separate adjacent factories. One for making explosives (H.M.E.F.) and a second one for filling shells and for breaking down the casings and recovering the explosives from defective shells (N.F.F. No.18). Its history with explosives (Dynamite) manufacture commenced in 1881. This was a relatively short lived operation which closed in 1893. Thereafter the site was abandoned until 1914 when Nobel’s Explosives Company Limited made plans, with the Secretary of State, to build a new facility on a 760 acre site to manufacture TNT.

Production of TNT began at the new works in July 1915. That same month Nobel erected an additional facility on the site to produce propellant explosives (i.e. cordite) for the British Navy. This was followed in October 1915 with yet a further plant to make rifle cordite and ballistite, guncotton and nitro-glycerine. Facilities for the production of the explosive Tetryl were also arranged. The site’s first cordite plant started production in January 1916 while that for the production of rifle cordite and ballistite came on-line in March 1916. The production of Tetryl commenced in the Autumn of 1915.

In June 1917 the site was nationalized by the British Government. Nobel remained as the managers of the site working under the direction of the Ministry of Munitions.

Throughout the Great War the Pembrey works produced 15,000 tons of TNT and 20,000 tons of propellant. The total number of workers in October 1918 was 4765 of which 58.6% were women.

As part of a contract made between Nobels and the British Government War Office in 1915 plans were made to construct a shell filling factory on the Pembrey site adjacent to and to serve the explosives making facilities of H.M.E.F. The factory started production in July 1915. The factory was managed by the Explosives Loading Company until it was nationalised, along with the adjacent H.M.E.F., in June 1917.

At it height N.F.F. No.18 consumed more than 200 tons of high explosives every week, so much was used that the supply of purified TNT could not keep pace and a proportion of amatol was substituted for it. From May 1917 the filling of shells on the site discontinued and operations were switch over to decommissioning defective shells and recovering their explosives.  All though most of the factory’s worker’s were laid off at the end of 1919 some work continued  until the site’s final closure in 1926.

Munitionettes melting high explosives out of decommissioned shells

In March 1917, the factory employed 1,050 workers of which 70.5% were women.. Many of the workforce travelled in from as far a field as Swansea and Carmarthen. The site was served by its own railway stop which handled up to 14 passenger trains per day.

After the closure of the site it was sold in 1926. By 1935 it was used as a convalescent home and a camp for the children of unemployed miners.

In 1938 The British Government decided to re-establish a munitions factory on the site. The new Royal Ordnance Factory (R.O.F.) – Pembrey operated throughout World War II, despite suffering a hit by a German air raid. From 1944 the site again became engaged in decommissioning old armaments which became a significant part of its work.

The R.O.F. continued to operate after 1945 and saw an upturn in work in 1951 with the start of the Korean War. The site finally closed in 1964. It is now Pembrey Country Park. Many of the site’s former munitions buildings still exist and these have become a historical feature of the park with interpretation boards being installed at key locations.

Location Details:

Pembrey-Burry Port, Carmarthenshire  – National Factory Area No.5

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type 1

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token

Material: Copper

Design: Bi-facial with a milled edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  32.3 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer beaded and raised rim borders reads NATIONAL FACTORY PEMBREY BURRY  PORT  . Legend in centre field in two lines reads ½ PINT COCOA . Ornamental designs above and below.

Reverse:  Blank excepting for an outer beaded border.

Date: 1915 to 1926 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 103 – MMT038 but in copper. Private Publication. 2006.

Type 2

Function: Canteen/Refreshment Token

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a milled edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  32.3 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer beaded and raised rim borders reads NATIONAL FACTORY PEMBREY BURRY  PORT  . Legend in centre field in two lines reads ½ PINT COCOA . Ornamental designs above and below.

Reverse:  Blank excepting for an outer beaded border.

Date: 1915 to 1926 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 103 – MMT038. Private Publication. 2006.


Type 3

(Image courtesy of Noel & Alan Cox)

Function: Workers identification pass or check

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface with a plain edge and two holes for fixing/suspension (Note 2).

Shape & Size: Oval,  21 mm x 50 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer raised rim borders reads NATIONAL FACTORY PEMBREY BURRY  PORT  . Incusely stamped number in centre field reads  1839

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1915 to 1926 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Cox N. & A. – The Tokens, Checks, Metallic Tickets, Passes and Tallies of Wales 1800-1993.  Volume II – Post publication addition No. 3103. (Private communication Mark Smith & Noel Cox November 2018).


Notes:

  1. The reference to “National Factory” in this token’s legend likely indicates that it was issued for use in the canteen of N.F.F. No.1 as opposed to H.M.E.P. – Pembrey.
  2. An example of this check is known that has only one suspension hole. In the example illustrated the hole on the right is  thought to be a secondary addition.

 

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