The Kirkby Munitions Factory
As War became imminent, the British Government took the decision to construct new munitions factories in the North of England. One of the largest of these was built on an area of land, covering twelve farms, to the East of Liverpool, in a place known as Kirkby. The Superintendant of the Woolwich Arsenal, Lawrence Gale, was dispatched to supervise the project.
Work began at Kirkby in the Summer of 1940. By the time that our Musical is set (November, 1940) there were some 700 people – mostly women – working at the Kirkby Munitions Factory (KMF). In Spring 1942 this had increased to 22,000, making it one of the largest munitions manufacturers of the War. One-third of all munitions used by the British Army – during the entire Second World War – were made at Kirkby.
Some of the stories that came out of the factory were harrowing, such as this one from the Daily Telegraph, when a use exploded:
“The girl working on that tray was killed outright and her body disintegrated; two girls standing behind her were partly shielded from the blast by her body, but both were seriously injured, one fatally. The factory was badly damaged: the roof was blown off, electric fittings were dangling precariously; and one of the walls was swaying in the breeze.”
King George VIth awarded 37 Bravery and Distinguished Conduct medals to the women who worked at ROF Kirkby, as a result of handling the munitions, together with the aftermaths of these accidents.