Empty ammunition boxes piles up at Blyth Salvage Depot – Import Dock, South Harbour, Blyth. The houses in the background are part of Wensleydale Terrace. (Image courtesy of Gordon Smith – Blyth Local History Society)
Facility Type & Function:
National Salvage Depot (N.S.D.) – Unloading and reclamation of used ammunition boxes and empty shell casings which had been returned from the front line via the South Dock of the Port of Blyth. Once off-loaded at the port the above materials were inspected, sorted and sent off site for immediate re-use or repair prior to re-use.
The N.S.D. at Blyth was one of five similar facilities located across the United Kingdom which were created by the Ministry of Munitions.
This depot was in operation from 1916 to 1918. In 1918 it employed in the order of 12 male and 350 female workers.
Whenever a break in their work permitted many of the young women from the depot would often kick a football around on the nearby beach. Their efforts attracted the attention of the crew of a Royal Navy ship stationed in the harbour. A friendly acquaintanceship grew up between the two groups, with the sailors giving the women some coaching hints. This casual encounter was to lead to the formation of the best women’s football team that the North East has ever seen, the unbeaten Blyth Spartans Ladies’ Football Club.
Bella Reay, the daughter of a local coal miner, was the team’s centre forward and start player. She scored a total of 133 goals in a single season and was so good that she went on to play football for England.
The Blyth Spartans L.F.C. were the winners of the “Munitionettes Cup” in 1918. The final was played against Bolckow-Vaughan of Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park in front of a crowd of 22,000 spectators. Bella Raey scored a hat-trick.
Blyth Spartans “Munitionettes”. Bella Raey is seated front centre
Import Dock, South Harbour (opposite West Quay), Blyth, Northumberland, England – National Factory Area No.1
Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:
Function: Works Pass (Note 1)
Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge and pierced for suspension
Shape & Size: Circular, 34.7 mm
Obverse: Raised legend reads BLYTH . MUNITIONS around lower edge within outer beaded and raised border (example illustrated is unissued, i.e. it does not bear a hand stamped identification number in the centre of its field).
Reverse: Raised legend around inner field reads VAN DER VELDE & CO MAKERS NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE
Date: 1916 to 1918
Maker: Van Der Velde of Newcastle-on-Tyne (Note 2)
Published References: Gardiner, J. – Checks, Tokens, Tickets and Passes of County Durham and Northumberland. Page 65. Private Publication. 1996.
- It is believed that these checks were used as combined time registration checks and port area access passes by the employees engaged at the salvage depot. On arrival at work each day the workers would report to the depot’s time office. The time clerk would record each worker’s arrival time before handing them their uniquely numbered port access pass. These were kept on a large numbered peg board in the time office. The workers retained this pass with them at all times while at work. The passes provided proof, if challenged by a member of the port security team, that their owner had authorisation to be on port property. At the end of their shift the workers again reported to the depot time office where their leaving time would be recorded and their passes handed back in for safe keeping on the check storage board. A similar check based access control system was used throughout the Port of Blyth during much of the 20th century. (Information supplied by Gordon Smith, Blyth Local History Society, October 2018).
- Van Der Velde & Company were a well-known North Eastern check and token maker based in Newcastle-on-Tyne.