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Remembered Today:

Burning off spare Ammunition in 1919


Woburn Paul
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Just found this news clipping about my home town. I suppose they had to get rid of it somewhere, and probably had contracts in place which meant ammunition was still arriving well after the end of the war.

“Yorkshire Evening Post” Sept 6th, 1919

Burning Explosives in Bedfordshire - Material from Canada for the Bonfire.

"Woburn Sands, in Bedfordshire, is the place where the burning of superfluous explosives has been going on. A visit to the town yesterday showed that the burning of cordite and N.C.T. [Nitrocellulose tubular] had ceased, but, says a “Morning Post” special correspondent, no official connected with the dump or with the railway would give any information. (It is one of the advantages - to the Government - of nationalisation of the railway that railway officials have to consider not the public interest but the Departmental desire for secrecy.) But there is no possibility of covering-up up the tracks of the scandal. All the town knows of it, laughs over it.

The Woburn Sands Munition Ministry dump was originally a big brickworks. It was used during the war as a store for munitions. When the armistice came, the Ministry of Munitions, it will be remembered, in the desire to keep it in employment, manifested a great interest in bricks. It had made the shells for the war; now it was going to see that the bricks were supplied for a great Government building programme.

Under the circumstances it might have been thought that the Ministry would have remembered the brickwork that it was using for ammunition stores - a wasteful use at any time, for a brickyard and brickmaking machinery are not necessary for shell storage. But that idea never occurred to the Munitions Ministry.

Woburn Sands brickyards, after the armistice, were devoted to the burning off of surplus explosive (which was meanwhile being steadily manufactured elsewhere) No secret was made of this, for officials went round to tell the citizens not to be alarmed at the flares, and that there was no danger of explosion.

Burning-off continued steadily. Perhaps some of the citizens had a vague wonder that it took so long to burn out the dump, as the sacrificial fires burned day after day month after month; but to no one occurred the fantastic idea that the Ministry of Munitions was importing ammunition at great expense in order to burn it at Woburn Sands, That fact only came out through an accident.

One day recently there was an explosion instead of the usual big flares at the dump. The townspeople were alarmed; naturally asked questions; and equally naturally the workmen answered them. The accident, it seemed, had occurred through a case of explosives from Canada being opened and left open until a spark set it on fire and caused a mild explosion. The stuff being burned there was imported from Canada."

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