It is the pictures of the vast warehouses of shells, six hundred thousand of them, that is most shocking: that they could all be fired in just two or three days.
On 1 July 1918, at 7.10pm, a catastrophic explosion tore through the National Shell Filling Factory at Chilwell, Nottinghamshire.
The blast killed 134 workers and injured 250 – the biggest loss of life from a single accidental explosion during the First World War.
A large part of the factory site was reduced to rubble after the explosion. © Historic England/AA96-03585.
Eight tons of TNT had detonated without warning, flattening large parts of the plant and damaging properties within a three mile area. The colossal blast was heard 30 miles away.
Eye witness, Lottie Martin, a worker at the factory, later recalled: ‘…Men, women and young people burnt, practically all their clothing burnt, torn and disheveled. Their faces black and charred, some bleeding with limbs torn off, eyes and hair literally gone…’
Many factory buildings were twisted and distorted by the force of the blast. © IWM HU96428.
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