The Royal Ordnance Factory
Bridgend South Wales
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The Brackla Fuze Filling & Powder Factories

The Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factory

New Filling Factory Groups A and S - Brackla Hill

Introduction.

On the 17 th of January 1940 the “Ministry of Supply” asked “His Majesties Office of Works” to construct an additional Filling Factory at ROF Bridgend in the shortest possible time.

It was decide to ask Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons (Ldn) Ltd to quote as they were already building the Brackla Hill magazines and a Fuze Powder Factory on the Brackla site.

The cost of this new facility (Filling Factory number 11) was estimated as: -

Group A - £400,000 – 0 – 0 Brackla

Group S - £180,000 – 0 – 0 Brackla

Group B - £100,000 – 0 – 0 Waterton

The anticipated date of completion for Group A (HE and Pellets) was the end of September 1940, and for Group B by the end of July 1940. These dates were changed several times before the completion of the contracts, often to the dismay of some government officials.

Construction.

No sooner had the ink dried on the signed contracts the “Ministry of Supply” asked “HMOW” to accelerate the program so that production could be brought on stream by June 15 th for Groups “A” and “B” and by the end of August 1940 for Group “S”.

In fact most of the drawings for the buildings would not be ready until the 1 st of March 1940 made these dates impracticable.

This in turn led to all manner of problems, principally due to the nature of the land which was low lying and inclined to be waterlogged following heavy rain, this land required substantial landfill to raise the factory above the flood level.

Due to the high levels of conscription suitable male labour was also becoming shorter and this necessitated more costly overtime working, which in turn escalated the costs that McAlpine’s faced, these costs were often disputed by the local and national site architects and quantity surveyors.

contract


Treasury Approval for the A&S Contract

Equally, in 1940 there were a number of night-time air raids by the German Luftwaffe this often-interrupted site work, together with a large number of sub-contract workers, both often caused bottlenecks in the construction process.

Poor site access caused further restrictions due to the large number of vehicles that were constantly delivering material and removing spoil from the site.

Of the buildings, some were single storied and made from tongued and grooved wood around a steel framework, most had frame ridged roofs whilst others were flat roofed, these buildings building's were lined with flameproof insulwood boarding. The exterior roofs of these buildings were covered in a bituminous felt roofing material.

Other buildings were of a mixed brick, and concrete breeze block construction mainly build around a steel framework, some of these buildings were 50 foot high at their ridge, these were often Asbestos tiled, all were built on a concrete floor and foundation.

All interior and exterior steelwork surfaces were covered either by wood or bituminous felt layers. Exposed metals were usually made of brass and fixed by brass or gunmetal screws.

Windows were made from ¼” Georgian wire cast plate glass and were glazed with putty in metal sash frames, again as a precaution against the effect of explosive blasts.

Most of these buildings were protected against blast by earth mounds with twin entrance gaps at opposite ends of the building.

Each building was surrounded by a high security fence made from 5 foot galvanised iron ½” wire mesh mounted on 25 foot high wooden poles.

Each building was serviced with its own water main, fire hydrant, steam heating supply, and mains electricity for lighting.

Brackla

The Brackla site differed in many ways to the Waterton site, firstly it was the smaller acreage site, it was sited in low-lying land between Brackla Hill, Coity, Litchard Hill, and Simonstone.

Secondly, its primary function was the manufacture of Fuze Powder, the filling of HE shells and Cordite pellets.

Finally, it was the home of the 8X magazine HE and Cordite storage tunnels.

It essentially provided some of the raw materials for the Waterton site and provided temporary storage for Waterton built munitions.

Basically, it was an extension to the Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factory complex, it had its own production management structure but the common functions such as services and admin etc were common to both sites.

Brackla ROF sites A & S including Magazine Tunnels

Brackla ROF sites A & S
credit - www.islandfarm.fsnet.co.uk

Production figures and number of personnel employed at the site are unknown but it is likely that there were several thousand people employed on the three shift rota system at its production peak in 1942.

It provided Waterton with the filled detonators for the type 115 Fuze that was used in the 25 pounder projectile, over 100 million of these Fuzes were made at Bridgend.

In some ways Brackla complimented the larger Waterton site, and there was some friendly production rivalry between them, more especially in fund raising and social issues.

The site operated the same three-shift structure as Waterton and was subjected to the same rules and regulations.

The complex closed around the same date as Waterton with exception of the magazine storage facility, which closed in late 1946.

Post War Development.

Following the end of the war the site was developed as an industrial estate, and apart from the magazine storage tunnels the site is exclusively given over to light industrial enterprises such as sheet metalworking, plastic manufacturing, furniture manufacturing etc, more detail can be found under the End of War section, Whats Left.

Joe Ludlow

Bridgend

4 September 2003

 

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