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Chris_Baker

Just children

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Chris_Baker

I have borrowed this information and photographs from member "chucka" at the Birmingham History Forum, with thanks.

I had not seen this before; it gave me quite a pause for thought. I began my working career in a factory at Dudley Port. Anyone who heard my talk at Kevin's recent meeting might remember my closing remarks about sparing a thought every now and again not for the boys on the Somme and at Wipers but for the girls such as these.

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Chris_Baker

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I suppose, given the date, you might call this off topic - but as it is illustrative of the war work of the 1914-1918 period, I hope our Mods will allow it to run.

I woder how many of them were fatherless by 1918?

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old-ted

Thought provoking.

Thanks for posting.

Regards

John

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Alan Tucker

Thanks for doing this Chris - I also saw them on the Birmingham History Forum. One small quibble - we call them 'girls' as we would in today's terms but would they have the same self-image irrespective of the term used on the memorial. Most of them would have left school at 14 and gone to work in this factory - some by not long according to the ages. Some of their other female contemporaries would have also gone into 'service'. They would probably have seen themselves as young 'woman'. The 13 year old is somewhat of an anomaly but without looking it up I think you could leave full-time education and become a part-timer. Next time I am in Birmingham Reference Library I will look up newspaper reports of the disaster.

I make the same point about Valentine Strudwick at Essex Farm when with a group.

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CGM

What a terrible thing to happen. I notice that two surnames are repeated. Maybe two families lost two children.

I don't know off hand what the school leaving age was in 1922, but this shows that children were still carrying out adult's jobs then.

I think it's a reminder that when boys of 15 or 16 tried to enlist, between 1914 and 1918, many of them would have left school at 12 and been working in an adult's world for 3 or more years, and so, arguably, felt themselves well qualified to go to war with the men.

CGM

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AndyJohnson

Chris

Your musing "I wonder how many of them were fatherless by 1918?" is presumably related to possible deaths in WW1. In that case the answer is none of the 19 girls lost their fathers in WW1. By the time of the inquests in 1922, 2 of the deceased girls were pre-deceased by their father's - neither as a result of WW1.

Both the factory owner, Knowles (actually his wife owned the factory) and the Works Manager, Chadwick, were charged with "feloniously killing and slaying Mabel Weaver" in effect manslaughter. The jury, to the surprise of the judge, found Chadwick not guilty and he was therefore acquitted. Knowles was found guilty and was sentenced to 5 years. Mrs Knowles, as owner of the factory, was charged with storing explosives without a licence.

The workshop (Dudley Port Phosphor Bronze Co.) was in Groveland Road, Dudley Port. They acquired a contract to break up 0.22 cartridges to recover principally the lead and copper. The explosive content was gathered in open boxes and tipped into the canal at the end of the day! In the workshop there was a coal-fired brazier, there was loose gunpowder, there were no obvious precautions of any sort, unsurprisingly there was an explosion.

Over £10,000 was colleced as the Dudley Port Expolsion Fund, about 50/50 from public subscription and compensation from Knowles. The cost of the memorial stone as pictured was £79 13s 6d and £28 was paid to Tipton council for maintenance in perpetuity.

You can download a video file (.wmv) from Pathe News for your own use at no cost. This shows the inside of the factory after the explosion - you can see the destruction and the boxes of cartridges.

Enter following url: http://www.britishpathe.com/product_displa...archword=tipton

On the second item in the list, select Free Preview ,and press Download Video - if you're Vista it puts it to your Download file.

Regards

Andy

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old-ted

Andy,

brilliant. Thank you.

Regards

John

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witzend

It's nice to see this topic included, so thanks for allowing it. Annie Naylor, one of the victims, was my grandfather's sister. She was paid 4 shillings a week, which I believe was very low pay even in 1922. There is a two page spread in the Black Country Bugle telling the full story of the disaster.

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truthergw

Between the ages of 12 and 14, it was possible to work part time and attend school part time. It was very common for birth certificates to be borrowed and so children from the age of 12 and even younger to be working part time. That would explain the small wage. A: Wages were graded according to age and B: they were working half a week, about 24 hours or so.

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Mk VII

They must have been black-powder .22s (normal for .22s in those days), smokeless powder would not have done that.

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Tim P

I work in and around Tipton. I may pop and see that.

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Magnumbellum

One small quibble - we call them 'girls' as we would in today's terms but would they have the same self-image irrespective of the term used on the memorial. Most of them would have left school at 14 and gone to work in this factory - some by not long according to the ages. Some of their other female contemporaries would have also gone into 'service'. They would probably have seen themselves as young 'women'. The 13 year old is somewhat of an anomaly but without looking it up I think you could leave full-time education and become a part-timer.

I make the same point about Valentine Strudwick at Essex Farm when with a group.

They would have seen themselves, and been seen by others as girls. Advertisements would often say, 'Factory/office/shop girl wanted', and likewise for boys - hence the term 'boy soldier' for those who legally enlisted as boys. Girls would stay 'girls' until around 20, unless married. Boys would be regarded as men around 18.

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Myrtle

Between the ages of 12 and 14, it was possible to work part time and attend school part time. It was very common for birth certificates to be borrowed and so children from the age of 12 and even younger to be working part time. That would explain the small wage. A: Wages were graded according to age and B: they were working half a week, about 24 hours or so.

At John Knowles trial one of the girls who had worked at the factory said that she had worked from 8 a.m. until 5.50 p.m. except for Mondays when she finished an hour earlier. Her wage was 3s 4d the first week she worked and 6s the following week.

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lmgibbons@hotmail.co.uk

I wrote an article about the Factory explosion that was published in The Black Country Bugle. My Great Grandfather James Maddocks worked at the place at the time and witnessed the carnage. His wife later told her daughter about the tragedy and how much the explosion and the aftermath had affected James. He had fought with the 1/6th South Staffordshire Regiment.

I have an image of what I believe to be the workforce (or some of them) at this factory, including some of the girls, and looking across the faces of the men there seem to be a fair few who would have served. To experience a massive explosion without warning after going throught the war must have been indescribable for these men, who must have hoped that they would never hear the noise or see the result of an explosion ever again.

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Honora

The town must have been devastated by the explosion and deaths of so many youngsters.

I agree with Magnumbellum, 'girls' remained 'girls' until they married. They may have earned a small wage but most of it would have been handed over their their parents who would have retained what we would call 'parental control', although I believe they would have enjoyed some fun in their own way.

My grandmother and great aunts were slightly older, than these, but they worked in a local munitions factory and they enjoyed the local dances in their country village and had fun (and I remember hearing that they enjoyed,flirting with the boys). My great uncle was 13 in September 1915 when he left school completely, having reached std 6, to take up 'Government work', either on the farm or in the munitions factory (Hindleys at Bourton in Dorset) making shell cases.

Honora

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Guest Peter Cutler

Knowles didn't  acquired a contract to break up the ammunition as the Government Inquiry shows. It was shocking case of an illegal subcontract, and as the Judge said "Knowles saw an opportunity, as so many did these days, to make a little profit on a transaction, and the cheaper the labour the more profit he could get. It was gross exploitation of the labour of little boys and girls....while in order to get more profit young and inexperienced girls were engaged."

 

In November 1922 the final report by the Home Office on the Dudley Port cartridge explosion of March 6th, where 19 girls were killed, stated that the Court of Inquiry found that the cause was the culpable negligence of JW Knowles. Major Philip Sydney Babty bought 45 to 47 million rounds of miniature ammunition from the Disposal Board, and sold it to Premium Aluminium Casting Co, Ltd of Birmingham. Knowles agreed  to purchase ammunition from the Premium Aluminium Casting Co, Ltd; and the Court found that it was the duty of Mr H Andrews and Mr RV Dawkins, directors of the company to see the ammunition was broken down under proper precautions, and that their negligence was a contributing cause of the explosion.

 

I think the best account of the tragedy can be seen on the Blog Black Country Muse, scroll down to "Death and Destruction"

 

http://www.blackcountrymuse.com/apps/forums/posts/search?query=1922

 

 

 

 

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mbriscoe

I opened a new thread, I was not aware that this one was here.

 

Knowles appealed to the Home Secretary in 1923 for his sentence to be reduced.  I did not find any further reference to it so presume he failed to get a reduction in his sentence?

 

 

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