Quick Firing Cartridge Factory No.4 – Royal Ordnance Factory – Woolwich

A group of the Q.F.C.F. No.4’s Shell Assembly staff, c.1916-18

Facility Type & Function:

Quick Firing Cartridge Factory No.4 (Q.F.C.F. No.4) – This was a munitions assembly facility within the Royal Ordnance Factory (Arsenal), Woolwich. The bulk of its output during the Great War is believed to have been 18 lbr high explosive artillery shells.

Brief History:

Q.F.C.F No.4 was a fully integrated shell production facility located on the mid-southern edge of the site of the 1,300-acre Royal Ordnance Factory in Woolwich. The factory became operational in May 1916. As part of the Royal Arsenal’s munitions production facilities it came under the control of the Royal Laboratory. During the Great War it is believed that the Q.F.C.F No.4’s was principally engaged with the assembly and filling of 18 lbr high explosive artillery shells.

The site of Q.F.C.F No.4 occupied approximately 10 acres of land which was largely bound by a triangular shaped perimeter. Like other parts of the sprawling Royal Ordnance Factory complex, it was served by the Royal Arsenal Railway to facilitate the better movement of both staff and materials. The Q.F.C.F. No.4’s many component buildings largely comprised wooden huts with corrugated iron roves. In addition to the munitions production and assembly huts the site contained, inspection facilities, raw materials, component and tool stores, separate magazines for storing explosives, cordite and fuses, offices, a workers’ bicycles shed, staff changing rooms and toilets, short break rooms plus both men and women’s separate dining rooms along with a central boiler house.

Part of a 1918 map of the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich showing the layout details of Q.F.C.F No.4 – courtesy of Royal-Arsenal-History.com (RAH)  – To view a higher resolution image of the above plan please click on image

During the Great War the main staff entrance to the Q.F.C.F No.4 was via a central gate located approximately mid-way along its southern perimeter. This entry gate had two associated “ticket stations” where, on arrival, the workers would have to present their individual numbered identification passes to the factory’s security staff. As can be attested from the many surviving photographs of groups of workers from the Q.F.C.F No.4 the largest proportion of its workforce were women.

A group of the Q.F.C.F. No.4’s Shell Shop staff,  1917

At the end of World War I the Q.F.C.F No.4 was decommissioned. However, it is believed to have been re-activated shortly after War II to deal with the disposal of obsolete ammunition or, more likely, to produce munitions for the Korean War. The site was cleared in the mid-1950s and now forms part of the Thamesmead development, Woolwich.

Further historic background relating to the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich can be found in the video presentation below.

Location Details:

Woolwich, Greater London (formerly Kent)

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type I 

Function:  Unknown (Notes 1 & 2)

Material: Brass

Design: Uniface with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   28.9 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads Q.F.C.F.4 and around bottom edge No. plus a raised curved line above which is the incusely stamped identification number  587 . In the centre of the field the mark of value 6D (Note 2).

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1916 to 1918 (Note 3)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 144 – MMT166. Private Publication. 2019.


Type II

Function:  Unknown (Notes 1 & 2)

Material: White metal alloy (zinc based)

Design: Uniface with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   29.0 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads Q.F.C.F.4 and around bottom edge No. plus a raised curved line above which is the incusely stamped identification number  1096 . In the centre of the field the mark of value 1D (Note 2).

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1916 to 1918 (Note 3)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Unpublished.


Type III

Function:  Unknown (Notes 1 & 2)

Material: White metal alloy (zinc based)

Design: Uniface with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   19.2 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads Q.F.C.F.4 and around bottom edge a raised curved line above which is the incusely stamped identification number  528 . In the centre of the field the mark of value 1/2D (Note 2).

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1916 to 1918 (Note 3)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 44 – MMT031. Private Publication. 2011.


Notes:

  1.  It is likely that these tokens were issued to the site’s workforce and were used as canteen tokens. As such, they would have been exchangable for refreshments at the factory’s segregated sex dining rooms or Short Meal Break Cabins. The locations of these can be identified in the above site map of 1918.

A View of the Women’s Dining Room (Building F93) in the southeast corner of Q.F.C.F. No.4 shortly before their demolition in the mid-1950s – Royal-Arsenal-History.com (RAH)

2.  The addition of up to a four-figure identification number on this series of tokens is unusual. It is unclear if these relate to sequential token issuing numbers or workers’ individual identification numbers.

3.  Based on style and size it is most likely that these tokens were used in the “hay day” of the Q.F.C.F No.4, i.e.  World War I.


 

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