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A person stood in the temporary exhibition area of The Devil's Porridge Museum.

Landscapes of War: reflections of a digital intern

By Collections blog

By Rosie Shackleton, Digital Intern for Industrial Museums Scotland, as part of the Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme


Landscapes of War is a project about how the Second World War impacted the landscape of Scotland and its people. It was part of the wider Second World War and Holocaust Partnership Programme funded by the Imperial War Museum and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. As part of this, we opened two exhibitions on this theme; one at The Devil’s Porridge Museum and the other at the Scottish Fisheries Museum. These two ‘sister’ exhibitions helped us tell a national history of WW2 in Scotland and its ubiquitous effect on the landscape, but also allowed us to celebrate the local stories related to this theme at each museum. While at the Fisheries Museum we focussed on how the seas were changed by the War using oral testimony of fishermen who were commandeered to Minesweeping vessels, at the Devil’s Porridge we used a Gretna cinema ticket to tell the story of Helen Graham who was killed during the Gretna bombing of April 1941. Ostensibly, these stories appear unrelated, but our theme of landscape allowed us to link these stories to a wider national narrative.

This project was also personally really valuable for me. Thanks to the team at both museums and at Industrial Museums Scotland, I was able to play an active role in each part of the process. I was able to research at both museum’s archives, select objects for the exhibitions, curate the spaces and run the social media to advertise them. All this means I gained fantastic experience at all levels of exhibition making. This will continue when we make the online version of both exhibitions which will go live on the Go Industrial website in the next months. In-person and practical exhibition-making means I now have useful tools when we begin uploading content and curating that online space. We’re really excited to show this exhibition on a new platform!

Lots of unexpected things have come out of this project as well, especially when we’ve been able to unite personal stories with objects on display. At the Fisheries Museum, we put the letters of James Gillies on display. He was a local man from Largo, Fife who served in both World Wars. Next to it, we planned on displaying a Christmas card from Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. The card was sent by a women called ‘Minnie’ but there is no more information on her in the archives. By chance, we saw that James references a ‘Minnie’ several times in his letters to his mother. Then we found a letter from Minnie to James in the archive! We had uncovered a friendship that had been hidden in the museum and were unite them by displaying them together. At the Devil’s Porridge, we displayed the cinema ticket from Gretna that I had mentioned before. At the bottom of the ticket are instructions on what to in an air raid alongside the film listings. While researching the Gretna bombing, we found a statement that said Helen Graham, the youngest victim of the raid, was at the cinema when she heard the sirens. She left the building to check on her family but was tragically killed by a bomb. In both of these cases, we were able to enhance a story through objects not previously on display at both museums.

As the Landscapes of War exhibition finishes at the Devil’s Porridge, it’s been great to reflect on the process of researching and installing. It’s been really valuable to find those previously hidden stories and give a fresh perspective on how the Second World War affected Scotland. Working across two museums has been extremely rewarding, not only for me personally, but also for Go Industrial as a partnership. We strengthened the relationship between the Devil’s Porridge and Scottish Fisheries Museum and created a coherent project celebrating regional nuances while representing a national story. I’m really proud of what we achieved as a team!

Landscapes of War is still open at the Fisheries Museum until December 12th.

Suffragettes demonstrating outside court

20th Century Revolutions and how they relate to the surrounding area

By Collections blog

Written by Calum Boyde

A revolution is a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes or operations that could be peaceful or violent. The world has gone through many revolutions from the peaceful ones, like the Reformation and the Print Revolution, to the violent types, like the American and French Revolutions. In World War One and Two, Women contributed to the war effort by filling jobs in that were primarily male positions. How do some revolutions in the 20th century relate to the Dumfriesshire area? Which this article seeks to explain. 

The Russian Revolution of 1917 started due to a combination of poverty, lack of food, inflation of the Ruble (the currency of Russia), opposition to the war and the hate towards the Tsar rulership. The February Revolution was a mostly peaceful protest as the protestors were protesting for bread and the garrison of troops were sent to defuse the protest. The garrison of troops shot some protesters, but the protesters kept to the streets. The result of the protest was that Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne. The October Revolution was led by the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin. Their goal was to overthrow the provisional government and set up a soviet government. They managed to occupied government buildings and strategic places in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). The result of this revolution was that Lenin became the leader of the country and founded the Soviet Russia. This revolution relates to this region as at the end of the Second World War began The Cold War. During the Cold War, the first Nuclear Power station in Scotland, Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station, was built. Chapelcross was built from 1955 to 1959 and ran until 2004, before being decommissioned. The Cooling Towers were destroyed in 2007. 

Figure 1 Bolsheviks in Moscow. Credit Flickr

The German Revolution of 1918 to 1919 happened due to the fact the Germans faced post war problems. The revolution started as a mutiny at Kiel but then spread to Berlin. This spread led to a political revolution. Many people took part for different reasons: opposition to the Kaiser, opposition to the war and to get back to where Germany was before the war. This led the Kaiser to abdicate the throne and the government replaced the Kaiser at the Reichstag (Government building) with itself. The Revolution eventually came to an end when the Weimar Republic was formed but the peace wouldn’t last long. In October 1929, Wall Street crashed leading to a depression, which hit Germany hard, and led to the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler to rise. In 1939, Nazi Germany started invading Poland which started the Second World War. The Factory was reused as a depo for ammunitions. 

Figure 2 Revolution in Kiel, Germany. Credit WikiMedia

The Suffragettes movement is most likely the most known revolution that happened in Britain in the 20th century. Women wanted the right to vote, both violent and peaceful protests happen. These ranged from marches and lobbying MPs to not eating in jail and throwing yourself in front of a horse. In 1918, women over 30 was giving the right to vote but those women weren’t the ones who worked in the factories, protests still had to happen to make sure women had equal rights as men for voting. It wouldn’t be until 1928, where women over 21 was giving the right to vote and equal rights with men. At the museum, we are currently researching about who worked at the factory and what they did after the factory. Some of the women who worked at the factory were suffragettes as they didn’t appear in the 1911 census. 

Figure 3 Suffragettes protesting outside court. Credit Wikimedia

Now we go to the latter half of the century to talk about the remaining revolutions. The long sixties happened mainly in America during the late 50s to the early 70s. This is more of a time frame than a revolution, but it features many revolutions that happen at the same time. The Civil Rights movement was a revolution were African Americans fought for their own Civil Rights due to segregation and in the south the Jim Crow Laws. Many major events happened in this movement like Brown Vs the Board of Education of Topeka, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, Sit ins, Birmingham, Alabama, The March on Washington and the violent Watt Riots. The leaders of the Movement were Martin Luther King Jr, who led the peaceful protests which happened mainly in the south, and people like Malcolm X, who led the violent protests in the north. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Act of 1965, gave African Americans the freedom they wanted. This is only one revolution that happened but was likely the biggest. 

Figure 4 Martin Luther King standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C, United States. Credit Flickr

The Women’s revolution also happened in the long sixties.  This revolution was about Women breaking the mold of what they were in society. The most known event that happened in this Revolution was when women invaded Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1968, where the women threw out items like bras and crowned a sheep, Miss America. While women were breaking the mold, the youth were forging their own identity.  

Another prominent movement in the long sixties was the birth of Youth Culture. This culture was for the youth and were about breaking away from what they had to be and what they watched and listened to. Acts like The Beatles and Elvis Presley were popular among the Youth. 

The last Revolution, to be talked about is the fall of the Soviet Union. This was a democratic revolution caused by economic problems of communism and the influence and economic prosperity of the western countries such as UK, US, Canada, Western Europe and Australia. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the ending of the Cold War and of the Soviet Union in 1991. This was the first-time since 1961 that the capital was not split. 

Figure 5 People climbing up the Berlin Wall. Credit WikiMedia

As you have seen, the 20th century was full of revolution. From the German and Russian to the Suffragettes and the Long Sixties, revolutions can be a mix of both violent and peaceful tactics to achieve their goal. Many revolutions effect one country of the world but could have an effect to the world in later years. The German revolution led to the creation of Nazi Germany and the Second World War, The Russian Revolution on the other hand led to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and the Cold War. The Suffragettes had the biggest impact to this region as it was a revolution that happened in this country and lead to women gaining the right to vote. The Long Sixties, even though it happened mostly in America we are still feeling the effects of it today with the Black Lives Matter and Women movements. 

Gretna Works Hospital Staff. There are also two dogs in the photo.

Get to Know the Medical Staff of HMF Gretna

By Collections blog

Researched and written by Laura Marley.

During the First World War, health and safety standards were not as high as they are nowadays, however, at HMF Gretna there were efforts being made in order to keep the workers safe. There was a Works Hospital on site which had space for 16 patients. However, a larger hospital was later built which could accommodate a further 84 patients. From the 22nd of July 1916 to the end of 1918, Gretna Works Hospital treated 789 patients in total, with 273 being male patients and 516 female patients. Every female worker at the factory was given a medical inspection before they began working there. This would help to check that they were healthy enough to work in the factory. The factory had several first aid stations located across it which were used to treat workers who had sustained injuries which were not severe enough to be taken to the hospital. They were located in high-risk areas of the factory and had both male and female medical staff manning them. HMF Gretna had 3 ambulances which, on average, each travelled 370 miles per week. There was a Maternity Home which had room for six patients. This was important as many of the workers at HMF Gretna were female. The War Office also reserved beds at local hospitals for factory workers in case of serious injury as the Works Hospital could only treat so many patients at a time. Until the 31st of December 1918, local hospitals received a total of 709 patients from HMF Gretna. These were paid for by the War Office and included more male than female patients.

Figure 1: Gretna Works Hospital Staff. Photo from Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive

Gretna Works Hospital, which was located in the grounds of HMF Gretna was staffed by extremely experienced doctors, nurses, and surgeons who treated a large number of patients due to the dangerous nature of working within a munitions factory. Not much is known about those who worked in Gretna Works Hospital, but this article will help us get to know them better. 

Inside Gretna Works Hospital. Photo from The Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive.

Dr Agnes Barr Auchenschloss was born in Paisley on May 30th, 1886. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1911 with a medical degree. At this time, it was rare for women to study medicine and become doctors as they were generally seen as more suited to nursing or midwifery. This played into the gender stereotypes of the time that women were caring and nurturing. However, those who wanted to become doctors often found ways in which they could achieve their goals. Agnes worked in the Royal Alexandra Infirmary in Paisley before being employed at HMF Gretna as a medical officer. Not much is known about Agnes’ specific role within the factory, but it is likely that as a medical officer she was often busy attending to the various injuries that factory workers sustained. It is likely that she would have regularly assessed the health of the workers due to the fact that they were working in close contact with dangerous chemicals. She married Gosta Lundholm in July 1914. He also worked at HMF Gretna and was the Assistant Section Manager of the Nitro-Glycerine Section due to his skills in chemistry. Following the war, Agnes and her husband Gosta moved to South Africa, where Gosta had been working before the war. Whilst there she offered medical aid to local people. Agnes, Gosta, and their two sons returned to Scotland in the 1920s where Agnes joined the Women’s Citizen Association. Agnes passed away on July 4th, 1972, three years after her husband passed. 


Dr Peter Murray Carlyle was born on December 10th, 1873, in Dumfriesshire. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and graduated in 1908. Before working at HMF Gretna he was a local doctor.  Peter married Margaret Gourley Yeats in Edinburgh in 1910 and following their marriage, they moved to Sheffield where Peter worked as a physician and surgeon. Whilst employed at HMF Gretna he was certifying surgeon. Peter was appointed as certifying surgeon by the Chief Inspector of Factories in 1916. This position was a requirement under the Factory Acts and his role was to oversee the health and welfare of the factory workers. However, Peter didn’t just work at HMF Gretna during the war, he was also a part-time unpaid Red Cross Society volunteer where he worked at several Auxiliary Hospitals in Longtown, which is only a short distance from Gretna. Peter was heavily involved with the Ministry of Munitions and was appointed as a medical referee for the Gretna District for the War and Pensions Committee in 1918. Following the war, Peter became a ship’s surgeon in 1930 and passed away on December 4th, 1952.


Dr Agnes Marshall Cowan was born in Edinburgh on April 18th, 1880. She attended the Edinburgh University Medical School and graduated in 1906. Similarly to Agnes Auchenschloss, this was a time where women found it difficult to enter the medical profession as a doctor and be respected by their male colleagues. Following her graduation, she became a house physician at Leith Hospital, then a house surgeon of the eye department at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. Agnes was an assistant medical officer at HMF Gretna from April 1917 to April 1918. Following this she joined the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) and worked as a medical officer. She was also a missionary in Manchuria, China between the wars. She passed away on the 22nd of August 1940.


Dr Lilian Wemyss Grant was born on March 15th, 1873, in Calcutta, India. She was born to parents who were of Irish Catholic decent and were in India due to her father’s job as a career soldier. She studied medicine in Brussels, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. Before working at HMF Gretna, Lilian was a medical administrator at QMAAC Hospital at St Leonard’s on Sea. She was then a Medical Controller at QMAAC Southern Command in Salisbury. In 1917, Lilian was an assistant surgeon at Endell Street Military Hospital, which was a military hospital based in London which was fully staffed by women. Lilian took up the post of Medical Officer at HMF Gretna in May 1918. She then became a military doctor in France in November 1918 and presumably went back to India in 1919. 


Kate Evelyn Nellie Johnston was born in Cheshire on March 31st, 1893. Kate did not have any formal education in nursing. This was typical of the time as many medical universities did not offer nursing courses at this time. Kate worked as a nurse in the factory’s hospital. She married her husband, Herbert Walter Twitchin in 1918 in Gretna. He also worked at HMF Gretna as an engineer. Kate passed away on March 1st, 1953. 


Sarah Burns McCleary was born on November 2nd, 1887, in Creetown. Before moving to Gretna, she worked as a nurse in the Fleming Memorial Hospital, which was a children’s hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. Sarah married Alexander Cunningham in Creetown on December 12th, 1916, he was a materials checker at Gretna, and she was employed as a nurse at the Gretna Works Hospital. Following the war, they moved to South Shields. Sarah passed away on January 19th, 1965.


Dr Thomas Goodall Nasmyth was born in Fife on February 28th, 1855. He attended the University of Edinburgh and graduated in 1876 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He also gained a Diploma in Public Health from Cambridge University. Before working at HMF Gretna he worked as a GP. Thomas also became the first medical officer for Fife. He was an Administrative Medical Officer at HMF Gretna. It is possible that the role of Administrative Medical Officer at HMF Gretna was made specifically for Thomas due to his background in both medicine and public health. Following his work at HMF Gretna, Thomas became a town councillor for Morningside in Edinburgh. Thomas passed away on the 16th of January 1937.


Dr Robert Wilson Christian Spence was born in Linlithgow on the 16th of August 1884. He came from a family of medical practitioners and pharmacists, with his mother being a chemist and his father being a medical practitioner. Robert studied in Edinburgh and before working at HMF Gretna’s Works Hospital he was house surgeon at Cumberland Infirmary. He was assistant works surgeon at HMF Gretna, and he also worked in a number of hospitals in France and England. Robert passed away on August 8th, 1939. 


Dr Gilbert Aitken Welsh was born on the 18th of July 1874 in Edinburgh. His father was a chemist and druggist. He studied at Edinburgh University and graduated in 1898. Before working at HMF Gretna he was a GP in Garlieston, in the Southwest of Scotland. Gilbert was a medical officer at Dornock and along with his family, he stayed in Gretna for some time after the war. Gilbert passed away on July 1st, 1935. 


Despite not knowing much about the staff of the Works Hospital at HMF Gretna the work that they did was very important as working in a munitions factory was extremely dangerous and resulted in many people suffering from severe injuries. 




Routledge G. L., Gretna’s Secret War (1999)

Accidents at Work Panel 1, Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive Google Drive

Medical Provisions at HMF Gretna, Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive Google Drive

HM Factory Gretna Workers Database, Devil’s Porridge Museum Website

Officer's Sewing Kit

Officer’s Sewing Kit – Object of the Month.

By Collections blog

This month marks the return of the object of the month to The Devil’s Porridge Museum. This is were an item from The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s collection that is currently not normally on display for the public is celebrated and displayed. The object of the month for May 2022 is an officer’s sewing kit.

Sewing kits were used by officers to maintain and mend any damage to their uniforms or clothing. This officer’s sewing kit is from World War One. The intial’s K.L.D on the front of the sewing kit refer to its previous owner, Kenneth Lees Duckett, who was a second lieutenant in the Highland Light Infantry. Read more about him below.


Kenneth Lees Duckett

Photo of Kenneth Lees Ducket

Second Lieutenant Kenneth Lees Duckett (HU 121492) CWGC  Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Kenneth was born on  5th October 1891 in Glasgow to George William and Ann Kirkham Duckett.

In September 1914 Kenneth joined the Highland Light Infantry as a private in the 9th (Glasgow Highlanders) Battalion. He became a Sergeant in May 1915 and gained his commission in the following August.

His brother Second Lieutenant Harold Ager Duckett was also in the 9th Glasgow Highlanders Battalion in the Highland Light Infantry. Sadly Harlold died on 07 June 1917.

Kenneth married Isabelle Sutton Laidlaw in July 1915. They later had one daughter.

Sadly, Kenneth was wounded in action on 22nd August 1916 in the Battle of the Somme and died later that day.

Even more sadly, Kenneth had led an attack which had been canceled, but he had never received this order. His daughter was yet to be born at the time of his death.

Kenneth Lees Duckett is buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery.

Isabelle later remarried a man called John Haggart Fraser, who was a chartered accountant. John was born in 1874 and died in 1953. Isabelle lived died in 1964, as can be seen on her death certificate from Scotland’s People below.

Registration of Death Isabelle

Source: Scotland’s People.

The gentleman who donated the officer’s sewing kit to us was given it by his friend in the 1990s, who was in some way related to John Haggart Fraser.

The officer’s sewing kit will be on display at the museum until the end of the month. You can book your visit to The Devil’s Porridge Museum online here>

Sources and further reading



Miss J Drummond: a life of striking contrasts

By Collections blog

The Miracle Workers Research Project began in 2021, with research volunteers striving to find out more about the 30,000 people who worked at HM Factory Gretna in World War One. In the months since, many fascinating and previously unknown histories have been uncovered. Today, volunteer Cathy writes about her research into Miss J Drummond.

Miss J Drummond worked as a member of staff at the Dornock site of the Gretna Munitions Factory, with a tantalising entry in the Dornock Souvenir magazine providing her address as ‘Megginch Castle, Errol, Perthshire’.

Address entry for Miss J Drummond, Dornock Souvenir Magazine

From this address, it has been possible to find out something more about Miss Jean Drummond’s remarkable life and that of her family via family history websites, historic newspaper records and books.

It seems that Megginch castle is no ordinary castle, and that the Drummond family is no ordinary family, for their outstanding visionary achievements in agriculture, marine engineering and their lives of public service, amongst other things. There is an adventurous, pioneering quality of the family described in the words of John Drummond, Jean’s brother, as “the usual family spirit of being different” and there is a family motto of “marte at arte”, which John translated as meaning ‘by hook or by crook.’[i]

Jean’s family – early years at Megginch Castle

Megginch Castle is a 15th Century Castle situated on the Carse of Gowrie near Perth, Scotland, that has been in the Drummond family since 1661.[ii] It has ancient yew trees believed to date from a monastic community and is in an area known for its fruit-growing.

Jean’s father Malcolm Drummond was one of the Grooms of the Privy Chamber in Ordinary to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. Her mother, Geraldine Margaret Tyssen-Amherst, of Didlington, Norfolk, was the daughter of William Tyssen-Amhurst, the 1st Baron Amherst of Hackney.

Jean was the oldest of a family of four children, with two younger sisters, Victoria Alexandrina and Frances Ada, while the youngest child of the Drummond family was her brother John, who became the 15th Baron Strange.

At Megginch Castle through recent generations, the Drummonds have been focused on agriculture, the soil, fruit growing and organic land management. Jean’s upbringing with her siblings included growing vegetables and flowers and keeping poultry.[iii]

In July 1911, at the age of 20, Miss Jean Drummond was to be found attending Court at Holyrood with their majesties the King and Queen. Miss Jean Drummond was “looking very sweet and pretty in a lovely ivory satin dress with tunic of silvered chiffon and silver fringe. Train of ivory satin. Clan tartan sash and holly badge. Pearl necklace and earrings.” A whole page of the Dundee Courier newspaper is dedicated to describing the event and listing the ladies attending, with details of the ladies’ fine clothing, headlined as “Many Notable Scottish Ladies Present. Bewilderingly Beautiful Gowns.” In October of the same year The Queen, the Lady’s newspaper, describes the notable people attending the second Ball of the Perth Hunt, with a record number of nearly 500 people attending: Miss Jean Drummond was reported as present, wearing white chiffon with a tartan sash.

The onset of war

With the onset of a World War just a few years later, the newspaper stories about the Drummond family ladies are quickly transformed away from details of fine clothing, to reflect their active involvement in helping the war effort.

In 1915 a sale is held in a school for the Kilspindie and Rait Work Party to raise funds for soldiers’ and sailors’ comfort funds. The sale was “very gracefully opened” by Miss Jean Drummond of Megginch, who “spoke very highly of the good work done at Kilspindie.”   In 1916, a Miss Drummond attended a meeting of the Eastern District Agricultural Committee (Perth) about the employment of women on Perthshire farms, asking if anybody had mentioned any difficulty about housing. Miss Drummond suggested that a house in a central situation in the various districts could be provided for the purpose of accommodation. Later in 1916, Miss Drummond of Megginch presided over a meeting of station workers by the Perthshire Women’s Patriotic Committee. During the month of July, 1916, 8,348 men had been supplied with refreshments at Perth station through the initiative of “Barrow Days,” having served a total of 55, 712 men up until the end of that month. Facilities at stations had proved inadequate to deal with the number of travelling soldiers, and Perth Station served the three lines of the Caledonian, the north British and the Highland. Enterprising women began to serve refreshments and this evolved into a 24-hour service of volunteers.[iv]

Perthshire Women’s Patriotic Committee: “Barrow Days” of free refreshments at Perth Station
credit: tour-scotland-photographs

Jean at Gretna Munitions Factory

Jean made the move from Megginch Castle to the western section of the Munitions Factory at Dornock/Eastriggs as a member of staff. She would have been just 25 years old when the factory began production in 1916. In the electoral roll for Eastriggs, 1918/19, she is listed as living at A2 Eastriggs – accommodation that was a far cry from the environs of Megginch Castle.

An example of the hut accommodation at Gretna Munitions Factory.
Later, brick was used for houses and communal facilities, with Garden City architects brought in to design and build the new towns of Eastriggs and Gretna.
credit: Wikimedia commons

The electoral roll provides a job title for some staff, but there is no further information about Jean, other than the fact that she was not enrolled as a Parliamentary voter at Eastriggs. We also know that she was living with Miss Annabella Barrie, and Mrs Sophie Robertson, who was a welfare supervisor.

Dornock extended over 1,203 acres and was positioned at the western (Scottish) section of the 9-mile-long Gretna Munitions Factory. This section of the enterprise produced nitric and sulphuric acids, nitroglycerine and gun cotton. A new township of Eastriggs was built on a 173-acre site. Moving eastwards, Gretna was also created as a new township then, across the border to England, was located the Mossband site of factory production, near Longtown, where the final product of the propellant cordite was produced. It was at Dornock where the nitroglycerine and nitro-cotton were mixed to make a cordite paste.[v] Remarkably, the army of workers at the munitions factory at one time came to exceed 30,000 (construction workers and cordite production). In the summer of 1917, the proportion of female to male workers was about 70% to 30%.[vi]

Unloading boiled nitrocotton, Dornock
credit: Devil’s Porridge Museum archives

Perhaps from Jean’s point of view, it would have been good to know that there was some agricultural work undertaken at the site, with a photograph showing groups of girls haymaking at Broomhills:

Girls haymaking at Broomhills
credit: Devil’s Porridge Museum archives

To Lambeth and Queen Victoria Working Girls’ Club

After WW1, Jean moved from Eastriggs to Lambeth, London, to be leader/matron of Queen Victoria Working Girls’ Club. The club was founded in 1887 for local working girls at 122, Kennington Road.  Activities of the club included drama, dance, folk songs, crafts and nursing. Jean was associated with the club from 1919 until at least the onset of WW2.

The Drummond sisters had a long association with Lambeth, and with Kennington Road in particular. Jean lived in a flat at 122 Kennington Road through the 1930s and right up to WW2, while her sister Frances, who was a commercial artist, lived across the road at number 143 Kennington Road, with sister Victoria, who was a marine engineer.

122 Kennington Road, Lambeth: the address of Queen Victoria Working Girls’ Club. credit: British Listed Buildings

Another World War: Jean’s experience of the Blitz

From September, 1940, right through to May, 1941, London was bombed almost every night, a time that came to be known as ‘The Blitz’. During that period, Jean and Frances were AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) volunteers.

The night of April 19/20, 1941 was a particularly severe night of bombing. By midnight, a sub-fire station located in the Old Palace School, Poplar put out calls for assistance to south of the river (e.g. Lambeth). Jean and Frances must have travelled to duty at this extra call. The city was trying to cope with 1,400 fires, which were very scattered due to the fact that low cloud and drizzle were obscuring targets. Various crews were standing-by at the school when, at 1.53 am, the school took a direct hit from a bomb which went through the roof and down the stairwell, causing instant deaths: many people were trapped in the rubble as much of the school collapsed, and fire took hold in the remains of the building. It took until morning to put out the fire; then began the job of finding the bodies and searching for survivors. Recovery took nearly a week: bodies were taken to a temporary mortuary for identification. 34 people died that night, 32 men and 2 women. 33 of the people who died were auxiliaries. After being buried for 5 hours in the rubble, it is something of a miracle that both Jean and Frances were rescued and, along with another woman, were rushed to hospital.

The morning of 20 April, 1941: Old Palace School, Poplar, London
Searching for the bodies begins: credit Paul Chiddicks

This tragedy remains the largest single loss of Fire Brigade personnel in English history. Its full details remained untold at the time due to Emergency Defence Regulations, being unearthed six decades later by the Firemen Remembered Charity.[vii]

This bombing, however, was not the only direct experience the two sisters experienced. John Drummond, Jean’s brother, on a trip to stay with them in London to collect essential farming equipment, includes reference to their house having had a direct hit, the hostel where they had taken rooms having gone too and, as well as their wardens’ post, half the new house (in which they were still living) – and also, ‘hearing a near one coming down,’ ‘Jean had got more than a touch of the blast.’ What did the siblings talk about? Not surprisingly, John spoke about Art with Frances and about the old days, ‘when we were all kids’ with Jean:

            “I found it was not done to make any reference to bombs; when I      started to tell a bomb story of my own I saw, by their pained expressions, that I was reverting to the category of a line-shooter. It occurred to me that women are either much braver than men or   feel things less.”i

Bomb damage to 143 Kennington Road, where Frances and Victoria lived (the Queen Victoria Girls’ Club was across the road at number 122).
credit: Walcot foundation.

The sisters moved to a flat at Restormel House, Chester Way, Kennington, then (after that too suffered bomb damage) to Tresco, 160 Kennington Road for the decades to come.

Victoria Alexandrina Drummond MBE

Jean’s sister Victoria, who was named after her godmother Queen Victoria, vigorously pursued her wish to become a marine engineer. After very many setbacks, and through sheer determination and hard work, during the 1920s she served on ships visiting Australia, Africa, China and India. She then found it difficult to get work in the Depression of the 1930s, but WW2 offered new opportunities – and new setbacks – that, despite her qualifications and experience, she found it impossible to get a position as a female Second Engineer. Undeterred, she continued to pursue her work tirelessly as a marine engineer, and ultimately she qualified as a Chief Engineer. Victoria was awarded the MBE in 1941, as well as the Lloyds war medal for bravery at sea. She had achieved becoming the first woman to go to sea as a marine engineer, and the first woman to become a member of the Institute of Marine Engineers (now the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology).[viii]

After Victoria saved a ship following bombing in the north Atlantic, local residents in Norfolk, Virginia, where the ship docked, gathered a collection of £400 for Lambeth. Victoria donated this to the Lambeth Communal Kitchens Committee, where a hot sixpenny lunch was provided at the Victoria Drummond Canteen, for people bombed out of their homes.

Later years

With the running of the Queen Victoria Working Girls’ Club, AFS duty during the Blitz, and other initiatives such as the sixpenny lunch, the Drummond sisters were well-respected in Lambeth. After their move to Tresco at 160, Kennington Road, years later the choir of St Philip’s Church made a point of singing Christmas carols for them.[ix]

Clearly the sisters led very close lives and, when Victoria and sometimes Frances were not travelling the world, their base together for many working years and in retirement was firmly rooted in Lambeth.

Jean died in 1974 aged 83, very shortly after the death of sister Frances in the same year. Sister Victoria died in 1978, and all three sisters are buried together at Megginch Castle.

Gravestone of the three Drummond sisters: Jean, Victoria and Frances at Megginch Castle. credit the

Megginch Castle today: digital farmers’ market

130 years on from Jean’s birth, Megginch Castle remains in the Drummond family.[x] The orchard at Megginch holds two national fruit collections of apples and pears, with over 1,400 trees. Scottish tea is now grown there.[xi] Local producers of food and makers can sell direct to the community through a ‘NeighbourFood Market’ initiative, thus keeping brother John Drummond’s visionary ideas and organic practice of agriculture (and those of previous generations of Drummonds) very much alive to this day.[xii]

Miss Jean Drummond: a dedicated pioneer for the working girls of Lambeth and valiant AFS warden

Background reading around the Drummond family has revealed that, through the generations they have been and are, an enterprising, pioneering and visionary family, unaccustomed to resting on their laurels and refusing to be overcome by setbacks. Jean was no exception. As a child raised in a castle and attending many prestigious social occasions, any expectation for her future life was unlikely to have included working in a Munitions Factory, running a club for working girls in London for many years, and experiencing two world wars, including being bombed at home, and facing death during valiant Auxiliary Fire Service work in London during the height of the Blitz.

 A life expected and a life lived: a striking contrast

There was a cohort of people who were born in the late 1800s who were destined to live through (if they were lucky), not one, but two world wars, significantly spanning ten years of their adult lives. Lives and fortunes altered drastically for men and for women, for better and/or worse. Someone like Jean, with her unique Drummond family rural upbringing, combined with attendance at the very top socialite occasions, had no doubt to adapt from the life expected. It’s incredible what Jean and other amazing ladies such as her sister Victoria and Miss Florence Catnach, who was Chief Supervisor at the Mossband site of HM Gretna Munitions Factory[xiii] witnessed living through and apparently not only adapted, but adapted with vigour. Their legacy of work at Gretna Munitions Factory, though for a relatively short period of time, seems to have set the tone for the remainder of their lives.

The contrast between Jean Drummond’s upbringing at Megginch Castle and her actual life (and that of her immediate family) is surely a particularly striking example.



[i] Drummond, John (1945) Inheritance of Dreams, Faber and Faber.


[iii] Drummond, Cherry (1994). The Remarkable Life of Victoria Drummond – Marine Engineer. London: Institute of Marine Engineers.

[iv] Burton, Anthony (2014) The Workers’ War: British Industry and the First World War, the History Press.

[v] Routledge, Gordon L (1999), Gretna’s Secret War, Bookcase.

[vi] Routledge, Gordon L (2020), Moorside: A Wartime Miracle, Arthuret.

[vii] The detail and illustration of this story has been made possible by the excellent account by Paul Chiddicks, whose Great Aunt Winifred Alexandra Peters tragically died that fateful night, aged 39. For a complete, detailed account, see:


[ix] Zimmerman, Maud (1996), Edmund Walcott’s Estate: A History of the Walcot Estate in Lambeth.





Politics and the Devil’s Porridge: Lloyd George

By Collections blog

Researched and written by Mohammed Binghulaita Alghfeli.


David Lloyd George pictured in 1919. Photo credit:

Lloyd George is one of the most popular British Prime Ministers of the 20th century. Lloyd George is best known for planting the seeds of the modern British welfare state. Although his fondly remembered as an energetic and pragmatic Prime Minister, the government roles he had before being Prime Minister are often ignored. This article sheds more light on Lloyd George’s role in the creation of Factory Gretna. Lloyd George was appointed the first Minister of Munitions and served in that role between 1915-16.


As Minister of Munitions, Lloyd George was instrumental in setting up Factory Gretna, which became the largest cordite factory in Britain during World War 1. The article argues that Lloyd George’s experience obtained from the role as Chancellor of the Exchequer was instrumental in his success as Minister of Munitions. The article also argues that it is the success of Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions that set him up to ascend to the higher office of Prime Minister.


War Time Chancellor (1908-1915)


Lloyd George was appointed the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1908. His first major task was implementing the Liberal party’s 1906 election manifesto. A key promise was that the country would reduce military spending. Lloyd George supported the idea to reduce military spending by arguing that the country was not at war and hence government spending should be directed towards more social services (Pelling, 1989). However, conservatives launched a public campaign against the reduction in military spending. The campaign against a reduction in military spending was a success which forced the Cabinet to reject Lloyd George’s proposals.


Lloyd George’s enthusiasm to reduce military spending aligned with his core beliefs. According to Morgan (2017), Lloyd George was an opponent of warfare and was initially vehemently opposed to Britain joining the war in 1914. He only changed his opposition to the country joining the war when Belgium stated that it would refuse German requests to have her army pass through Belgian territory. As George Floyd’s anti-war stance was known, it is surprising that he was appointed as a Minister of Munitions in 1915.


Since Lloyd George was not a proponent of war, one can only wonder why Asquith appointed him as Minister of Munitions in 1915. Ahlstrom (2014) speculates that perhaps Lloyd George was appointed Minister of Munitions because of the good management and leadership skills he had shown as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For Britain to win the war, it needed to have a competent person at the helm of its ammunitions department.

Photo credit PA/PA Archive/PA Images

Ministry of Munitions (1915-1916)


The Ministry of Munitions was created in 1915 in response to the Shell Crisis of 1915 (Greenhalgh, 2007). In addition, Miller (2021) notes that the Ministry of Munitions was also created to bring together military and business knowledge to reorganise the industry for war. Prior to Asquith creating the Ministry of Munitions, he, as Prime Minister, was in charge of the Admiralty and also ran the War Office (Quinault, 2014).


The lack of a dedicated munitions ministry had led to a shortage in the supply of weapons at the war front. Quinault (2014) argues that Asquith was not a good wartime Prime Minister. According to Quinault (2014), Asquith was more comfortable giving speeches and ignored the ammunition supply issues bedevilling the army. However, Asquith should be credited for accepting that the war effort could benefit from having a dedicated ammunitions ministry.


Minister of Munitions (1915-16)


David Lloyd George was the first person appointed to lead the Ministry of Munitions by Asquith. Unlike Asquith, David Lloyd George strongly believed World War 1 would be won through mechanisation. As Minister of Munitions, he said the “great war was a war of machinery” (Lloyd-Jones & Lewis, 2008). According to Lloyd-Jones and Lewis (2008), Lloyd George was not satisfied with the way ammunition for the war effort was being produced in Britain. Lloyd George strongly believed that Britain had to produce more ammunition for itself and its allies for itself to win the war. To increase the production of ammunitions, Lloyd George set up four large ammunitions factories around the country. One of the four ammunitions factories set up by Lloyd George was Factory Gretna in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.


Munitions of War Act (1915)


Lloyd George was instrumental in setting up the factory by facilitating the passing of the Munitions of War Act (1915). This legislation allowed the British government to tightly monitor and control private companies who were supplying the armed forces with ammunition. Furthermore, the Munitions of War Act (1915) allowed the government to restrict employee freedoms in factories making war supplies. For instance, Factory Gretna employees were restricted to leave employment. In 1916 the law was amended to make strikes in war industries illegal, and all labour disputes were sent to a tribunal (Stevenson, 2020).


These stringent measures in the Munitions of War Act (1915) would have made workers at Factory Gretna sad because it limited the options to use when demanding better working conditions and pay. One would assume that at Factory Gretna, Lloyd George was not a popular politician because of the legislation he had introduced. A petition sent to Winston Churchill in 1918 by the Women Police at Factory Gretna provides primary evidence that some employees at the factory were not happy with their pay and working conditions.


In 1911 Lloyd George, as Chancellor, was instrumental in setting up the National Insurance Act (1911). The law laid down the basics of the welfare state by making provisions for sickness and invalidism. The National Insurance Act (1911) was pro-worker legislation, while the Munitions of War Act (1915) was restricted worker rights. The two pieces of legislation seem to show a contradictory view of Lloyd George, but a deeper analysis shows a different picture. The National Insurance Act (1911) and Munitions of War Act (1915) show a pragmatic politician who is flexible and willing to change. Lloyd George was successful in his political life because he quickly adapted to situations. For instance, in 1915, Britain needed to increase its ammunitions production, and for that to happen, the government had to restrict worker rights temporarily.


Secretary of State for War (1916)


Lloyd George did not stay long in the Minister of Munitions post as he succeeded Lord Kitchener as the Secretary of State for War in 1916. Lord Kitchener had died when HMS Hampshire was sunk on its way to Russia (Lloyd-Jones & Lewis, 2008). Lloyd George’s success in a relatively short time as Minister of Munitions made him the logical choice to replace Lord Kitchener (Greenhalgh, 2007). As Secretary of State for War, Lloyd George still had considerable influence on the goals at the Ministry of Munitions. Therefore, indirectly one can argue that his thinking as Secretary of State for War impacted the way Factory Gretna was operated.


Prime Minister (1916-1922)


Lloyd George’s tenure as Secretary of State for War did not last long as Asquith was forced to resign mainly due to his mismanagement of the war. Lloyd George became Prime Minister in 1916. He quickly began to reorganise the government so that the war could be won efficiently. The major change made by Lloyd George was the centralisation of power via a smaller war cabinet. Doing so meant that government bureaucracy was greatly reduced, which led to decisions being made quickly.

Lloyd George and Churchill pictured together in 1907. Photo in public domain.

Lloyd George also appointed Churchill as the Minister of Munitions in 1916 against the advice of many in his party. The appointment of Churchill as Minister of Munitions was greeted with hostile comments from newspapers and members of parliament (Greenhalgh, 2007). According to Pelling (1989), Lloyd George later said that his decision to appoint Churchill as the munitions minister nearly collapsed the government. However, the appointment of Churchill proved to be a good decision as production of ammunition increased at war industries such as Factory Gretna (Stevenson, 2020). To a greater extent, the increase in ammunition production is attributed to Churchill’s astute leadership.





In conclusion, the article discussed how Lloyd George played a pivotal role in the setting up of Factory Gretna. The article argued that Lloyd George’s experience obtained from the role as Chancellor of the Exchequer was instrumental in his success as Minister of Munitions. Lloyd George was appointed Minister of Munitions because of the good management and leadership skills he had shown as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His success as Minister of Munitions and as Secretary of State for War opened the door for him to be Prime Minister.



Reference List

Ahlstrom, D., 2014. The Hidden Reason Why the First World War Matters Today: The Development and Spread of Modern Management. Brown Journal of World Affairs, XXI(1), pp. 201-220.

Greenhalgh, E., 2007. Errors and Omissions in Franco–British Co-operation over Munitions Production, 1914–1918. War in History, 14(2), pp. 179-218.

Lloyd-Jones, R. & Lewis, M. J., 2008. “A WAR OF MACHINERY”: the British Machine Tool Industry and Arming the Western Front, 1 91 4-1 91 6. Essays in Economic & Business History, XXVI(1), pp. 117-133.

Miller, C., 2021. The Clydeside Cabal: The influence of Lord Weir, Sir James Lithgow, and Sir Andrew Rae Duncan on naval and defence policy, around 1918–1940. The Mariner’s Mirror, 107(3), pp. 338-357.

Pelling, H., 1989. Munitions. In: Winston Churchill. London: Mcmillan, pp. 229-248.

Quinault, R., 2014. Asquith A Prime Minister at War. History Today, May, pp. 40-48.

Stevenson, D., 2020. Britain’s Biggest Wartime Stoppage: The Origins of the Engineering Strike of May 1917. The Journal of the Historical Association, 1(1), pp. 269-293.





Politics and the Devil’s Porridge: Winston Churchill

By Collections blog

Researched and written by Mohammed Binghulaita Alghfeli.




Winston Churchill is famous for being the British Prime Minister during the Second World War. As a wartime Prime Minister, Churchill is credited for galvanising Britain and her allies to defeat Nazi Germany. However, some people do not know that Churchill was also heavily involved in the First World War as a Minister of Munitions. This article focuses on the role of Churchill as a Minister of Munitions from 1917 to 1919. As a Minister of Munitions, Churchill was responsible for, among other things, the oversight of Factory Gretna. Churchill enjoyed success as Minister of Munitions, which saw him being promoted to Secretary of State for Air and War at the end of the First World War in 1919. The article also examines the influences of Factory Gretna on Churchill’s views on gender equality.


Background: 1915-1917


At the beginning of World War One, Churchill served as the First Lord of the Admiralty. According to Greenhalgh (2007), in 1915, Churchill planned and orchestrated the Dardanelles naval campaign and the military landings on Gallipoli. However, the Dardanelles naval campaign and the military landings on Gallipoli were both a failure that led to the demotion of Churchill and his resignation from the government. The ministerial appointment as Minister of Munitions was Churchill’s first role on his return to government.

Churchill also saw active service during WW1. He is pictured here with the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers at Ploegsteert on the French-Belgian border. Photo is in public domain.

The appointment of Churchill as Minister of Munitions was greeted with hostile comments from newspapers and members of parliament. The Dardanelles and the Gallipoli failures had tainted Churchill’s reputation to the extent that he was viewed by several MP’s as incompetent (Pelling, 1989). Pelling (1989) notes that the Secretary of War in 1917, Lord Derby, threatened to resign when he heard that Churchill had been appointed Minister of Munitions. The Colonial Secretary, Walter Long, wrote to the Prime Minister expressing grave concerns regarding the appointment of Churchill as Minister of Munitions (Pelling, 1989). The prime minister, Lloyd George, later wrote that his decision to appoint Churchill as the munitions minister nearly collapsed the government (Pelling, 1989).


Churchill was shocked by the negative reaction to his appointment as Minister of Munitions. According to Pelling (1989), Churchill had not realised how unpopular he was. However, Churchill did not allow his unpopularity to affect his job performance. The Cabinet Secretary in 1917 noted that a few days after Churchill’s appointment back in government, he looked like a different man (Pelling, 1989). He used his previous failures in government in 1915 as motivation to succeed on his second attempt in government (Greenhalgh, 2007).


Ministry of Munitions: 1917-19

The Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill meets women workers at Georgetown’s filling works near Glasgow during a visit in October 1918. Photo credit:

Greenhalgh (2007) notes that the Ministry of Munitions was created in 1915 in response to the Shell Crisis of that same year. In 1915 there was a strong newspaper criticism of the government because the army was experiencing a shortage of artillery shells at the war front. On 2 July 1915, the Liberal government passed the Munitions of War Act (1915) to ensure an adequate supply of artillery munitions (Greenhalgh, 2007). The Munitions of War Act (1915) paved the way for creating the Ministry of Munitions, with David Lloyd George being the first person to lead the ministry.


Although Churchill was Minister of Munitions in the closing stages of World War One, he played a huge role in ensuring that Britain and her allies had enough ammunition to win the war (Maurer, 2012). One can argue that the experience that Churchill amassed as the Minister of Munitions helped him in his later role as a wartime Prime Minister. As Minister of Munitions, Churchill had seen the importance of having local ammunitions manufacturing capacity and how that could be used to win a war. When the Second World War started, Churchill quickly ramped up local production of ammunition and other equipment for the war effort using the experience acquired as Minister of Munitions at the tail end of World War One.


Factory Gretna and Gender Inequality


Churchill became the Minister of Munitions on 17 July 1917 (Dockter, 2011). As a Minister of Munitions, Churchill was responsible for overseeing and coordinating the production and distribution of munitions for the successful execution of the war effort. One of the ammunitions factories set up during World War II was Factory Gretna. Therefore, as Minister of Munitions, Churchill was responsible for ensuring that Factory Gretna was operating as planned. Churchill was also responsible for managing labour issues at Factory Gretna, as evidenced by a letter written on 14 November 1918 by the Women Police Service asking for a salary raise. The Women Police Service requested Churchill increase their salaries by at least 10 shillings per week in the letter.


The Women Police Service at Factory Gretna argued that they deserved a salary increase because men doing the same job had been given a wage increase. In addition, those men were also paid more than the women. Therefore, the Women Police argued that it was unfair that men were being paid more than women. Moreover, the women pointed out that men were given equipment for free while women had to pay for it, which further reduced their wages.

A photo of the women’s police unit at HM Factory Gretna during WW1. Photo held in The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s archive collection.

The letter by the Women Police Service should be seen in the context of the early 20th century when women were expected by society to stay at home or if they chose to work to accept the conditions as offered. On the other hand, the women suffragette movement in Britain was getting strong and challenging gender inequality in all spheres of life. Therefore, when Churchill received the letter from the Women Police Service asking for a salary increase and similar conditions of service with that of men, that will have challenged Churchill’s beliefs.


According to Roberts (2012), Churchill is often portrayed as a male chauvinist because of his opposition to women’s right to vote when he was the Home Secretary between 1910-1911. As a result, Churchill was a frequent target of protest by suffragettes (Roberts, 2012). Churchill did vote for female enfranchisement in 1917, but that did not change how suffragettes viewed him. However, that did not stop the Women Police at Factory Gretna from petitioning him to solve gender inequality issues. Perhaps the Women Police at Factory Gretna saw Churchill’s vote for female enfranchisement as a sign that he might have some sympathy towards gender equality. However, it is also possible that Women Police at Factory Gretna petitioned Churchill not because of his expressed views on gender inequality but because he was the government minister responsible.


However, what is without question is that Churchill’s views on gender equality softened when he became a wartime Prime Minister. Lee and Strong (2018) note that Churchill’s views on gender equality had changed significantly by the time the Second World War began. Perhaps the petition by the Women Police at Factory Gretna in 1918 played a part in changing Churchill’s views on gender equality.

Photo credit: Yousuf Karsh. Library and Archives Canada, e010751643. 1941 portrait taken by Yousuf Karsh.



The article discussed the life of Winston Churchill as Minister of Munitions at the tail end of World War One. Churchill’s appointment back to the government in 1917 came after his dismissal after the military failures at Dardanelles and Gallipoli. The appointment of Churchill as Minister of Munitions was greeted with hostile comments from newspapers and members of parliament. However, Churchill showed great character to accept the appointment despite strong opposition and performed exceptionally well. His exceptional performance was rewarded by being appointed Secretary of State for Air and War at the end of the First World War in 1919. One can argue that Churchill’s good performance as Minister of Munitions relaunched his political career, setting him up to be the wartime Prime Minister.


The article also discussed the challenges Churchill faced as Minister of Munitions. Churchill was faced with addressing the gender inequality issue at Factory Gretna. Churchill’s views on gender inequality were well known when he became Munitions Minister. However, his views on gender equality greatly evolved over time. There is a possibility that the petition by the Women Police Service at Factory Gretna could have played a role in changing his views on gender equality.









Reference List


Dockter, W., 2011. The Tale of Two Winstons. The Historian, Autumn, pp. 10-14.

Greenhalgh, E., 2007. Errors and Omissions in Franco–British Co-operation over Munitions Production, 1914–1918. War in History, 14(2), pp. 179-218.


Lee, C. & Strong, P., 2018. Women in War: From Home Front to Front Line. London: Pen and Sword.


Maurer, J., 2012. Winston has gone mad’: Churchill, the British Admiralty, and the Rise of Japanese Naval Power. Journal of Strategic Studies, 35(6), pp. 775-797.


Pelling, H., 1989. Munitions. In: Winston Churchill. London: Mcmillan, pp. 229-248.


Roberts, A., 2012. Churchill The Wartime Feminist. [Online]

Available at:

[Accessed 1 March 2022].


Toye, R., 2020. This famous island is the home of freedom’: Winston Churchill and the battle for ‘European civilisation. History of European Ideas, 46(5), pp. 666-680.












Women Working in Cutting Workshop. Photo from Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive

The Dangers of Working in A Munitions Factory During the First World War

By Collections blog

Researched and written by Laura Marley.


The First World War broke out in 1914 and as the war progressed, the demand for ammunition increased significantly. Due to this, in 1915 David Lloyd George, who was the Minister of Munitions, commissioned the building of HM Factory Gretna in order to increase the production of ammunition being sent to British troops in France. Production started in April 1916 and due to the sheer size of the factory, many workers were employed there, including over 11,000 female workers[1]. HM Factory Gretna was the largest munitions factory in operation during the First World War and due to this there was a large workforce of which many would suffer from injuries caused by the dangerous work they did. There was a works hospital on site at HM Factory Gretna which had space for 16 patients. However, a larger hospital was later built which could accommodate a further 84 patients. Between mid-1916 and late-1918, the Gretna Works Hospital had treated 273 male patients and 516 female patients, all of whom were employed in the factory[2].

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Gretna Work’s Hospital. Photo from Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive

During the First World War, there was not the same health and safety standards that we have in place today so it was more likely that workers would suffer from injury. In terms of injury, we also need to remember that a vast majority of the people working in munitions factories during the First World War had never worked in a factory before so were often severely undertrained for the jobs that they were doing[3]. However, there were government initiatives in place to try and allow more skilled jobs to be broken down step by step, with one worker on each step, so that they were easier to complete[4]. Despite the government’s attempts to reduce the need for skilled workers and make jobs easier for the untrained workers they so desperately needed, many munitions’ workers still suffered from severe injuries at work. These injuries could include losing limbs when using dangerous machinery or suffering from burns due to the high risk of fires and explosions caused by the chemicals and acids that were used in the factory. Working with chemicals and acids also increased the risk of workers inhaling toxic fumes. Additionally, working in a munitions factory could cause long term health problems such as lung problems and skin discolouration.


Serious injuries: 

There were various types of serious injury that factory workers could sustain. We can see from Workmen’s Compensation Claims, that at HM Factory Gretna in 1917 there were a number of serious injuries sustained at work. These consist of 11 workers losing limbs such as fingers or even their arms. 30 suffering from less serious injuries such as bruising, sprains, breaks, or fractures of the hip, knee, or ribs. 15 workers suffered from burns and poisoning due to the acid they worked with and 5 suffered from eye, face, or head injuries[5]

One young woman, Victoria May McIver, lost the lower part of her left arm whilst working with machinery in the cordite section of HM Factory Gretna. This accident happened when she was only 17 and she was one of the youngest patients to stay in the factory’s hospital in 1917[6]. This accident highlights the dangerous nature of the work that many young women took on during the First World War in order to aid the war effort and do what they saw as the right thing to do.

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2: Women Working in Cutting Workshop. Photo from Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive

In total, there were 145 recorded fatalities in the factory area, with 115 being male workers and 30 being female workers[7]. This demonstrates the dangerous nature of work in munitions factories and shows that not just those actively involved in combat during the war were willing to put their lives at risk in order to ensure that Britain won the war.

Fire and acid injuries:

Due to the large amounts of chemicals and acids in use at HM Factory Gretna, there was an increased chance of explosions and fires breaking out. Due to this, HM Factory Gretna had their own fire brigade so that they would be able to get to the fire and put it out quickly[8]. HM Factory Gretna had its fair share of both fires and explosions. On November 15th, 1916, there was an explosion at the factory. Witnesses all reported hearing a gunshot like noise before they saw a fire start. Seven workers were injured in this incident. On December 8th, 1916, one worker was killed instantly due to an explosion, six other workers suffered from bad burns, and some later passed away because of their injuries. Michael Taylor had been working in the acid plant when an explosion happened, he was burned and also fractured his leg. Thankfully he survived but his leg did need to be shortened by 2 inches[9].

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3: HM Factory Gretna Fire Brigade. Photo from Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive

Working with chemicals and acid also meant that there was a high risk of workers sustaining injuries from them. These injuries ranged from being sprayed with acid from burst pipes, which could cause burns and even the loss of eyes, to inhaling the toxic fumes given off by the acid which could cause death[10].


Long-term impact on health:

There is evidence that the extended exposure to chemicals through working in a munitions factory had long term impacts on the worker’s health. Many of the women who worked at HM Factory Gretna suffered from long term health impacts due to the work that they carried out in the factory. Alice Morton was left with a yellow tint to her skin and as she got older, the yellowness became more noticeable. It could be seen mostly around and in the whites of her eyes. Ellen Stamper suffered from lung problems and sadly died of emphysema in 1955. Margaret Jane Sutherland sadly passed away due to the inhalation of poisonous fumes during her work at HM Factory Gretna[11]. This shows that the work being carried out in munitions factories during the First World War was not just dangerous at the time, but also left many with long term health impacts which were the cause of death in many cases.

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 4: Medical Card Given to Workers on Leaving the Factory. Photo from Devil’s Porridge Museum Archive

A medical card (pictured above) was given to HM Factory Gretna workers upon leaving the factory ‘for more than 3 months’[12]. The card tells people to choose a doctor as soon as possible after leaving the factory and not to wait until they fall ill. This is essentially warning them that they may experience long term ill health as a side effect of working in a munitions factory. It instructs the ex-worker to present the card to the doctors they are registering with in order to let them know that they have previously worked in a munitions factory. This is significant as it shows that the factory owners were fully aware that the workers were likely to suffer from long term illnesses which were caused by their work in the factory. However, it is unknown how many munitions workers suffered long term illnesses caused by the work they did during the war but there have been a number of reports of people across Britain suffering similar fates to the Gretna workers above, so one has to believe that this was a common after effect of munitions work.



Overall, this article should help you to understand just some of the dangers people faced working in HM Factory Gretna during the First World War. They were willing to work in dangerous conditions with unsafe machinery and chemicals in order to aid in the war effort and do their bit in ensuring that Britain and the Allies were successful in winning the war. Munitions work was a highly important job and without it the war would have been much more difficult.

[1] E. Ritchie, The Gretna Girls. Devil’s Porridge Museum Google Drive

[2] Medical Provisions at HMF Gretna, Devil’s Porridge Museum Google Drive

[3] G. Braybon, and P. Summerfield, Out of the Cage: Women’s Experiences in Two World Wars. (London: Taylor & Francis Group, 2012.)

[4] Ibid.

[5] Accidents at Work Panel’s, Devil’s Porridge Museum Google Drive

[6] G. L. Routledge, Gretna’s Secret War, (Carlisle: Bookcase, 1999)

[7] Medical Provisions at HMF Gretna, Google Drive

[8] Accidents at Work Panel’s, Devil’s Porridge Museum Google Drive

[9] Accidents at Work Panel’s, Devil’s Porridge Museum Google Drive

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Medical Card given to workers on leaving the factory, Devil’s Porridge Museum Google Drive

The top of a newspaper from Saturday, November 23, 1963.

Doctor Who & the Newspaper From 1963.

By Collections blog

Today is the 58th anniversary of Doctor Who; the longest running Science Fiction TV show. To celebrate The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s Digital Marketing Apprentice, Desray has written this blog post.

Front Page of the Newspaper from 1963.

When helping the museum’s other SVQ students re-organize the museum’s collection, I was delighted to a copy of The Daily Telegraph newspaper dating from the 23rd November 1963.


‘Week-End Broadcasting’ section of the newspaper.

The headline of the newspaper (and much of its content) is quite rightly dominated by the shocking news of the assassination of 35th American President, John F. Kennedy the day before. This is a very impactful and significant event, but I instantly became distracted by a section on “Week-End Broadcasting Programs.” Under that day’s listing was none other than the first episode of Doctor Who.


It’s listed as:

“ 5.15. Dr. Who (play series) – “An Unearthly Child” part 1: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford.”


This episode followed schoolteachers Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) whose concerns about their student, Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford) led to an adventure starting in a scrapyard, which neither of them was quite expecting. In fact, the schoolteachers would not find their way back to London for a couple of years to come (or 1965 to be more exact).

Cast of the An Uneathly Child on set and in character. From the left Jacqueline Hill, William Russell, William Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford. Source: Fair use,

The first incarnation of The Doctor was played by William Hartnell, who is also mentioned in the newspaper.


This first broadcast of Doctor Who program received relatively low viewing figures. Largely, this was due to the shock of the John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Power cuts in part of the UK are also likely to have influenced these viewing figures.


Fortunately (and very unusually for the time) the first episode of Doctor Who was repeated before the following episode, the next week. This secured much better viewing figures.


Sydney Newman was the initial creator for the sci-fi program and the Head of Drama at BBC Television at the time. He intended the program to be educational with information about science and history. Additionally, he wanted there to be “no bug-eyed monsters” like in other science fiction.


He also appointed the producer for Doctor Who, Verity Lambert. This meant she became the youngest (at the time) and the first female drama producer for BBC Television. Sydney Newman told Doctor Who Magazine in 1993, “I think the best thing I ever did on that was to find Verity Lambert.”


Veritiy Lambert on Doctor Who Set. Source: By BBC, Fair use,

She played big role in ensuring that arguably some of the TV program’s most iconic aliens appeared on the program and therefore securing its popularity.


Donald Wilson, the Head of Serials and Verity Lambert’s superior advised against the use of Terry Nation’s scripts which introduced the daleks. Sydney Newman also strongly disapproved of the daleks, which are likely to have fulfilled his idea of “bug-eyed monsters.”


However, Verity Lambert believed in the script, and it became the shows second serial. When the storyline aired it was very successful, so much so that another serial featuring the daleks was released the following year (‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’). The daleks were very popular, so much so that ‘Dalekmania’ ensued, and they continue to be one of the most well-known aspects of Doctor Who today.

A Dalek in front of the TARDIS from Doctor Who.

Verity Lambert stayed as the Doctor Who’s producer until 1965 when she moved on to produce other shows created by Sydney Newman for the BBC. She then went on to produce and work on many things in the entertainment industry, including the BBC series Jonathan Creek.


In 2002 she was even awarded an OBE for services to television and film production.


Sadly, she died in 2007, a short time before her 72nd birthday.

Delia Derbyshire. Source : This image was capped by Khaosworks (talk • contribs) from the documentary Doctor Who: Origins – This image was capped by Khaosworks (talk • contribs) from the documentary Doctor Who: Origins, Fair use,


Another person who had a huge impact on Doctor Who is pioneering Delia Derbyshire. Although the theme tune for the program was composed by Ron Grainer, it was realised and utterly transformed by Delia Derbyshire. In fact, Ron Grainer didn’t recognize it when she first played it to him.


The theme tune was created before computers and synthesizers were in wide use, which meant it was very time-consuming and precise work. She had to record individual sounds onto tape, adjust the pitch of each note separately and splice them all together to create the music at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The resulting theme tune was rather unique and unlike what had been heard before.


Although Ron Grainer tried to credit her as co-composer of the theme music, Delia Derbyshire was not credited on-screen until the shows 50th anniversary in 2013 (‘The Day of The Doctor’).


Sadly, she died in 2001. She has been awarded a posthumous honorary doctorate for her pioneering contributions to electronic music, by Coventry University in 2017.


Sources and further reading:


  13. Strevens, M. (Producer). (2013). An Adventure in Time and Space.
Ivy Herbert taking part in a CEMA organised concert in 1942

Ivy Herbert – Gretna’s Music Teacher

By Collections blog

Written and researched by Stuart Gibbs

In 1994 an article by P L Scowcroft highlighting the knowledge gap of British women composers was published on Music Web. On figure highlighted by the article was Ivy Herbert, a composer from the early to mid 20th century. At her height was a prolific composer and performer making numerous stage and radio appearance, she was secretary to the Surrey County Music Committee and had a close connection to the prominent composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Despite this little was known about Herbert with almost no biographical detail. However, the key to unlocking the mystery was Ivy Herbert’s connection to HM Gretna and a brief reference in a Carlisle newspaper.

Early life in Newport and Studying at the Royal Academy

Ivy Herbert’s birth record christened in 1893 as Genevieve Natalie Estelle Herbert

Ivy Herbert was born on June 7th, 1893, in Newport, Wales, and christened as Genevieve Natalie Estelle Herbert. Her father Alfred was a ship’s engineer and Ivy spent her early years at 107 Duckpool Road. Music education was an important part of life in Newport, but Ivy also had natural talent inherited it seems from her mother’s side, Lilla Flint. The Flints of Northampton were rather musical and the Welsh branch of the family, were no different. Ivy however was something of a child prodigy with her proficiency on the keyboard earning her the nickname “Ivy”. In the 1901 census she is recorded as ‘Ivy GNE Herbert’ and she used the name ‘Ivy Herbert’ for the bulk of her career as a musician and composer.

Ivy Herbert picture taken from an article published in the Western Mail in 1928

The 1911 census records Ivy as a music student, and the January 1912 issue of Musical Times lists Ivy among the students that passed the Royal Academy of Music’s Metropolitan Exam held during December 1911. The Royal Academy of Music was founded in London in 1822, when Ivy attended in the late 1900s the institution had just moved to its present location on Marylebone Road. During her time there she specialised in Pianoforte and on June 27th, 1916, Ivy took part in a student’s concert at the Royal Academy her last it seems as a student. Within a few months Ivy was part of the war effort when she was employed as a music teacher at the massive cordite production centre at HM Gretna.


Acting as Music Tutor at HM Gretna and the Royal Academy

The Social and Recreation Committee at the Gretna factory was set up with the express purpose of providing activities for the workers and keeping them on site as much as possible. Among the social events organised by the Social Department was an Orchestral Society which was established to support the productions of the Choral and Operatic society. Ivy worked with the Orchestral Society holding classes in an upper floor room of the Gretna Institute which was often used as a classroom. Initially the orchestra was supplemented by professional musicians but as 1916 came to an end the need for outside help diminished and Ivy’s services were dispensed with in the early spring of 1917.

Gretna Institute where Ivy may have taught music during the later half of 1916 and the early months of 1917

A farewell concert was organised for her at the Border Hall on Saturday March 10th, 1917. Ivy performed some of her music and star turns by the “Three Macs” and the “Gretna Pierrots” helped ensure a large audience. On leaving Gretna, Ivy returned to London residing at 20 Alexander Street, Bayswater and took up a position as tutor at the Royal Academy. During the summer of 1918 Six Miniatures for Piano, Ivy’s first published work, was issued. It is highly likely that pieces from this collection were written or even performed at HM Gretna. More work followed with Six Short Pieces for Piano in 1919 Danse de Piano in 1920 and Two Short Pieces for Piano in 1921. Ivy’s academic career at the Royal Academy also progressed and by 31 she was professor of pianoforte and bestowed the title Associate of the Royal Academy.

Ivy Herbert Carlisle Journal account of her farewell concert at the Border Hall in March 1917

On the Concert Circuit and in Radio Broadcasts

As a result, Ivy was in constant demand on the concert circuit. In 1928 she appeared in Cardiff with the newly formed National Orchestra of Wales. Conducted by Warwick Braithwaite Ivy gave the standout performance, a rendition of Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov’s Piano Concerto in C Sharp Minor. Besides live performances she also featured regularly on radio in concerts and recitals. She even had a weekly educational broadcast for schools which went out on the Cardiff channel. A particular highlight was a broadcast on the World Service in 1937 performing a series of short recitals which went out on All India Radio.

An Orchestra practice at the Royal Academy of Music during 1922 Ivy was a tutor at the college at this time

The 1930 Post Office directory still lists Ivy as living at 20 Alexander Street, also at this address is a ‘Miss Potto’. This was Florence Potto born in 1884 at Weeping Cross, Staffordshire. The daughter of Arthur Potto, a Police Inspector, she was brought up in the village of Great Heywood and by the late 1920s she had left village life behind to settle in London. Florence worked as welfare organiser and may also have acted as an ad hoc private secretary to deal with Ivy’s burgeoning diary, which included organising live and radio appearances as well as private tuition. For the next four decades Florence would be ever present.

The Outbreak of War Relocating to Dorking and working with Vaughan Williams

Ivy Herbert taking part in a CEMA organised concert in 1942

With Florence’s retirement in the late 1930s the decision was made to relocate to the suburbs, taking up residence in Dorking at Westcott Street. Ivy was quickly involved in the local music scene acting as the honorary secretary for the Surrey County Music Committee. Formed in late 1941 the body was chaired by the eminent composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was brought up in Wotton during the 1870s and 80s. Owing to his wife Adeline chronic arthritis, Vaughan Williams had returned to the area in 1929 taking up residence at ‘The White Gates’ in Dorking.


Ivy was also involved with the Council for the Encouragement of Music and Arts (CEMA). With the outbreak of a new conflict in 1939 the need to try and preserve cultural life was recognised with CEMA being established in January 1940. The body was chaired by the prominent economist John Maynard Keynes with the aim of ‘bringing art to the masses’ by organising arts events and concerts within the community. Ivy was involved in numerous CEMA events and even made a brief appearance in a promotional film for the body released in 1942. One CEMA organised event was held close to Ivy’s Westcott home at the Abinger Village Hall in May 1942. The event attracted a good turn out with Ralph Vaughan Williams amongst the audience. On January 31st, 1943, Ivy was back at Abinger Village Hall along with Margery Cullen, secretary of the Leith Hill Music Festival. They were performing a practice run of Vaughan William’s Fifth Symphony on two pianos while Vaughan Williams busily took notes. The Fifth Symphony had its first orchestral performance at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios on May 25th, 1943, and Ivy was among the invited guests attending the session.


In a raid over Bayswater on October 7th, 1940, several bombs landed on Newton Road, close to Ivy and Florence’s former home at Alexander Street but by 1943 the war increasingly moved to the suburbs. In January 1944 Westcott was bombed with four houses on the Watson Road destroyed, killing a total of nine people. Then on February 24th a Dornier was brought down on Parsonage Lane close to Fir Crest Cottage. Two of the crew managed to bail out and were arrested in nearby Wotton. As a result, Ivy Herbert and Florence Potto moved into Vaughan William’s residence ‘The White Gate’ staying in one a room set out for them. In the early spring of 1944 Dorking was hit by a new menace the V1. On June 19th, 1944, this crude version

of today’s drone landed on the Elm Cottage on Sandy Lane close to ‘The White Gates’, killing two women and a boy. A few days later a V1 landed on Ockley causing a local woman to later die from shock. On August 3rd, 1944, another V 1 came down in Abinger Common, close to where the Fifth Symphony was rehearsed, destroying a local church.


The Immediate Post War and Later Life

Ivy Herbert and Florence Potto remained at ‘The White Gates’ until 1946 when they relocated to 16 Church Street in Dorking. Ivy went back to composing, providing music to the words of Robert Bridges for The Linnet Song and A Window Bird Sat Mourning by Percy Bysshe Shelley. These were published in 1947. While researchers have failed to uncover Ivy Herbert’s background, Florence Potto, also tried to research her own family history with the same level of success. She told the press that, ‘she had searched in vain for years for other Pottos. It must be one of the most uncommon of English names’. This changed when a Douglas Chapman of Witham, discovered scratched on a window of his shop, ‘Jane Potto July 7, 1776’, and contacted the Daily Herald newspaper. In April 1954 Florence along with ten other members of the Potto ‘clan’ were invited to Witham to witness Mr Chapman’s example of 18th Century graffiti.


By the 1950s Ivy Herbert was less active on the concert circuit and her last recorded work was in 1949. CEMA became the Arts Council and with the new body and new chair -Maynard Keynes died in 1946 – many of the opportunities Ivy had previously received dried up. She returned to the Academy to sit an LARAM exam (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music) and poured her energies into teaching. Ivy and Florence resided in Dorking for the next twenty years. Florence Potto died in the early months of 1969 while Ivy Herbert, remained at 16 Church Street until the mid 1970s. She spent her remaining years in Bromley where she died on November 4th, 1993, a few months after her 100th birthday; little notice was taken of her passing.


As with other art forms women composers have been excluded from general music history and their work is often missing from ‘the standard concert repertoire’. This process has been intrenched at academic level with the use of standardized references which emphasize the composers and genres considered most relevant and are not designed to be inclusive. But there is some good news for the would-be researcher, the apparent amnesia regarding women’s history is a contemporary phenomenon and what Ivy Herbert’s story shows us is that with the appropriate due diligence, these ‘lost histories’ can be readily recovered.


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