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Spirit

Acorns and Chestnuts - for Ammunition

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Spirit

From the Wiltshire Intelligencer reporting on WW1 activity in schools - 'Schools organised foraging parties in autumn 1917 to gather blackberries for jam, acorns and chestnuts for ammunitions. Longbridge Deverill school collected 50 bushels of acorns in response to a request from the Royal Naval Cordite Factory in Dorset. Ivy Lane school, Chippenham reported that its pupils collected 1.5 tons of chestnuts and altogether the town’s schools collected 6 tons.

What on earth have acorns and chestnuts to do with ammunition manufacture?

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Andy Wade

I had a quick scan on t'interweb about this just a couple of weeks ago as I'd heard about this before.

Apparently... the starch content could be used in the process to make acetone which was a component in the production of the explosives.

But also, apparently... several hundred tons of conkers rotted away in storage as they turned out to be not quite as efficient as had been hoped and the experiment was abandoned.

Edited to add:
Here's what I read:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01s4xcw

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/25318729

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/listing/showcase/heritage-highlights/conkers-help-win-fww

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Stoppage Drill

Conkers collected as a source of acetone, needed as a solvent in the manufacture of propellants and explosives.

As an interesting aside, the shortage was solved as the result of a process developed by Chaim Weizmann. It is widely accepted that Weizmann's reward was the promise of a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish race (Balfour Declaration), Weizmann, then a biochemist at Manchester U was a prominent Zionist and subsequently the first President of the state of Israel.

His son was killed in action as an RAF pilot in WW2.

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ianjonesncl

Children collecting chestnuts.

post-46676-0-90831400-1416442006_thumb.j

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geraint

Conkers and acorns were gathered during the later years of the war to be turned into charcoal and used for gasmask filters. School children and PoWs in Ruthin gathered tons of them according to local newspaper reports.

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Old Tom

Collection of horse chestnuts continued in WW2. I remember picking up lots. I think we were given a few pence per hundredweigth (cwt).

Old Tom

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Moonraker

Given the opening post relates to Wiltshire, I'll just add that the children of Stanton St Bernard in the Vale of Pewsey collected acorns and chestnuts to provide acetone for the munitions industry. I wonder how this was organised: at county level or through the initiative of individual schools?

Moonraker

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