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Wartime Royal Ordnance Factory Memories


Tracey Bennett
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I found this on the BBC website, it's an article outlining the memories of a lady who used to work at the ROF at Risley during WW2. Quite shocking and Gruesome reading.

 

I'm intrigued by the reference to the ghost of Madam Wetherby who was killed at Oakwood and haunted the site. I've had a quick Google but can't come up with any more details, does the story sound familiar to anyone?

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/07/a2311507.shtml

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My ex wife's mother used to work there and apparently the worker's skin was discoloured  yellow from what they were dealing with . Unfortunately,she died in the early 50's when my ex was only 5 years old. It does make you wonder if it was work related.

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That was how it used to be - Algy would know.   My ex-father-in - law was a supervisor at Oldham Batteries in Denton.  I toured the plant one time - long vats of acid/ lead and all the workers elbow deep in it, no protection other than a leather apron.  He died at 60 from lead poisoning. 

My mother was totally deaf from her days in the weaving room at Cockedge.

Used to watch the German bombers fly low over our house on Gig Lane on their way to bomb the Risley factory.  

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My great aunt worked at ICI Randles/Wiggs works on the 'Island between Moore and Runcorn during the second world war filling shells with mustard gas and like many more workers there suffered badly, they had no or little protection and just had to get on with it!. Sad days.

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It's the matter-of-fact tone that makes it that way for me.

 

The tone reminds me of my Nan, who would have been just a bit younger, she lived through the War but was too young for War work. I think it's a generational/Northern thing, being quite blunt and matter of fact. I miss it now I'm stranded amongst mealy mouthed southerners!

 

I remember a school trip when I was a child we went to see the remains of the ROF before it was all landscaped for the park. I remember going to an exhibition, I think in the rangers hut at Risley Moss, that told the story of the factory. I took my children a couple of years ago, obviously the mounds are still there but no exhibition. <insert generic rant about Warrington's history> I wonder if anything of the interior reminds underground?

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That was how it used to be - Algy would know.   My ex-father-in - law was a supervisor at Oldham Batteries in Denton.  I toured the plant one time - long vats of acid/ lead and all the workers elbow deep in it, no protection other than a leather apron.  He died at 60 from lead poisoning. 

My mother was totally deaf from her days in the weaving room at Cockedge.

Used to watch the German bombers fly low over our house on Gig Lane on their way to bomb the Risley factory.  

 

Stallard.... I still have the original Oldham Battery that came with my 1967 Ford Corsair.... Unfortunately it is long since dead and a few chips out of it, but a nice piece of history none the less!!

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It wasn't just 'evil' management, it was just that nobody knew.  In 1955, as a senior in highschool, I was taken on several group factory tours.  One was to Rylands on Battersby Lane.  They had an Acid Plant where the wire was cleaned before galvanising.  Once again it was acid vats.  We entered at one end of the huge shed and within seconds we were all running for the exit at the other end.  Completely blinded and suffocating with the acid fumes.  The dozen or so workers in there were doubled over laughing at us.  They were working eight hour a day shifts, day in day out, dressed in coveralls.  They thought that they were tough guys and I would guess that not one of them realized the damage being done to their lungs.

 

With regards to clearing the Risley site, it all happened after I left the UK, but I did hear that several contractors went broke trying to break up the underground concrete.

 

Who knows Baz, it could make you a pretty penny one day !!!   Remember the Corsair well - pointed front fenders ??????

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It wasn't just 'evil' management, it was just that nobody knew.  In 1955, as a senior in highschool, I was taken on several group factory tours.  One was to Rylands on Battersby Lane.  They had an Acid Plant where the wire was cleaned before galvanising.  Once again it was acid vats.  We entered at one end of the huge shed and within seconds we were all running for the exit at the other end.  Completely blinded and suffocating with the acid fumes.  The dozen or so workers in there were doubled over laughing at us.  They were working eight hour a day shifts, day in day out, dressed in coveralls.  They thought that they were tough guys and I would guess that not one of them realized the damage being done to their lungs.

 

With regards to clearing the Risley site, it all happened after I left the UK, but I did hear that several contractors went broke trying to break up the underground concrete.

 

Who knows Baz, it could make you a pretty penny one day !!!   Remember the Corsair well - pointed front fenders ??????

 

 

I worked next to the Battersby Lane galvanising plant you mentioned & the fumes in there went straight on your chest. Did you notice any woodwork in there ?....It was like they'd been playing darts with crow bars , the wood was so pitted.

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Blimey....! I remember hearing from time to time some women saying they had worked at the royal ordinance factory during the war but had zero knowledge of what they did there. The country owes a hell of a lot to those women. They all deserved medals for the work they did. Were they ever presented with any?

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Other than for individual acts of bravery, no medals have ever been issued to civilian war workers (predominately women), Cleo. I trawled up some info below re the issue of war service badges.

 

The women’s pattern triangular broach was finally introduced in May 1916. It was available for women “engaged in the manufacture of munitions of war or other urgent war work”, which included women employed full-time in canteens “etc” of such establishments, skilled and unskilled workers, clerical staff in the approved companies, charladies, and cloakroom attendants. A woman could not be given a badge until she had two months on the job training and badges were not to be issued to girls under 16. No individual certificates were issued with the women’s badges and the employer could control allocation and re-allocation of badges, - they were basically left to their own devices in this respect although the same rules as for the men’s badges applied regarding illegal wearing and handing in when leaving employment or coming off war work.

 

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During the eight months from May 1916 over 270,000 women’s OWS badges were issued. I have found no statistics for what the final number may have been, but suspect that it may have been quite enormous.

 

Three ROF War WorkService Badges, the two on the left were WWI issue with the one on the right being a WWI badge overstamped 1939, so the MOD/ROF couldn't even bother issueing a WWII badge to their workers!.

 

59_1_zps9e425de8.jpg

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My mum worked as a "packer" at the Aller (what became British Aluminium ?) during the war whereas her sister (my auntie, now 90) got a job at ROF Risley, and the ongoing source of tension for all the years I remember them bickering was that my mum thought the Risley workers got paid far better than other war workers in the area.  Mum's personal opinions  expressed, I have no idea if it was reality.   

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  • 1 year later...

Hi everyone!

 

I'm new to the forum and just want to say I absolutely love it. I'm from warrington (I live in latchford) and am just about to start my final year of a history degree at Liverpool John Moores University. I'm doing my dissertation on the working lives of Warringtonians during World War Two, especially focusing on local rivalries and whether this affects our preconception of 'the people's war'.

 

I realise that many people working at that time would now be very elderly, but I'd really love to hear any stories, whether they're second hand etc or not, about people's experiences. My own great grandparents worked at ROF Risley and so many other industries contributing to the war effort, and I'd really love to know if anyone has any more information/stories and experiences.

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Hi everyone!

 

I'm new to the forum and just want to say I absolutely love it. I'm from warrington (I live in latchford) and am just about to start my final year of a history degree at Liverpool John Moores University. I'm doing my dissertation on the working lives of Warringtonians during World War Two, especially focusing on local rivalries and whether this affects our preconception of 'the people's war'.

 

I realise that many people working at that time would now be very elderly, but I'd really love to hear any stories, whether they're second hand etc or not, about people's experiences. My own great grandparents worked at ROF Risley and so many other industries contributing to the war effort, and I'd really love to know if anyone has any more information/stories and experiences.

Welcome Gabbycabbage - I am sure some of our older members (and we have a few) will enjoy sharing their memories!  I hope you live up to your name and are gabby :)

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Hiya Gabbycabbage and welcome to the madhouse forum :)

I'm not old enough and my dad was only a toddler in WW2 so probably not much help as far as personal experiences are concerned but I seem to remember there might be a few bits and bobs about my grandad written in some family notes my late mum scribbled down.  Probably not much though but I'll have a look.

You might already know this but  Stockton Heath Festival is on in a few weeks and one of the events is a local history talk about 'Warrington at War' by Janice Hayes of Warrington Museum (It's NOT on at the museum...)

Here are the details....

Friday 4th July
Warrington at War – A local history talk
 

To commemorate the centenary of the start of World War One, Janice Hayes from Warrington Museum and John Downham from The Lancashire Infantry Museum will each be giving a presentation about local people’s experiences of the war.
 

If you have any photos or memorabilia of relatives who fought in the war please bring them along.

Refreshments from Park WI (Appleton)

2.00pm – Appleton Parish Hall, Dudlow Green Rd, Appleton WA4 5EQ

Admission: £2 on the door


 

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I'm sure you will do fine Gabbycabbage as you are clearly making the effort :wink:  Here's something else which you might find interesting although it's more WW1 than WW2......

Latchford History Group have published a new book recently called 'KEEPING THE HOME FIRES BURNING'

 

It's all about Latchford life in the First World War  1914 – 1918 and is full of photo's. articles and memories plus Rolls of Honour etc.

I bought a copy and it's a great read and really makes you realise just what life was like both for families and also those serving.  I even spotted my great grandad's brother listed on the 'soldiers injured' list and we didn't even know he'd served in the war but there he was with the address we knew for gt grandad.
 

Obviously if there was anything in there you wouldn't be able just copy and use things out of their book due to copyright but it would certainly give you an insight into what it was like.  I'm sure if there was anything specific you wanted to use such as photo's they would be only to pleased to let you have copies or they may be able to help you with other info they have about WW2 if you ask them. 

Here is the link to their website and if you scroll to the bottom of the home page it tells you more about the book and where to get a copy and also their contact details.  You might still be able to buy it from St Hilda's Mission on Slater Street (Latchford) on a Wednesday as that's the day they meet up on I think so maybe you should go down and have a chat with them.... you never know what else they might have or know about :) 

http://www.latchfordhistorygroup.co.uk/
 

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