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Record of marriage for Jules Michael Filament.

Black History Month: Dr Flament

By Collections blog

Black History Month is a month-long event that celebrates and commemorates the culture and achievements of Black Britons throughout history. It’s been marked in the UK for over thirty years, and seeks to somewhat address the historical neglect of the vast contributions of the African and Caribbean community to our nation. This blog contains historic use of outdated, offensive and discriminatory language.

The Devil’s Porridge Museum commemorates the munitions workers of HM Factory Gretna, and the wider contributions of munitions workers across the UK during World War One. Not surprisingly the traditional image we have of the munitions workers is that of “Tommy’s Sister”, a plucky working-class white girl who risked life and limb to make shells and bullets. Whilst the majority of munition girls were young, working-class white women, we also have evidence that women of colour also worked in munitions. Angela Woollacott quotes from the diary of Miss G. M. West, a woman police officer who was working at a cordite factory in Pembrey, Wales. Miss West writes that black women were amongst the workers at the factory.

This important aspect of the story of World War One in Britain is woefully unknown, and further research into the story of Black munitions workers is sorely needed. Whilst Miss G M West’s diary relates to a munitions factory in Wales, there were Black Briton’s connected with HM Factory Gretna. Workers at the factory came from near and far, with the majority coming from or living in nearby towns and villages like Dumfries and Carlisle.

Many of the reports in the local press about Gretna centered on worker’s tribunals, which were set up during the War to resolve complaints and issues facing employees in war industries. These issues usually revolved around alleged thefts, slacking at work, and/or having time off for illness. It was in reading one of these many reports in The Annandale Observer that we came across a mention of Doctor Flament, who had provided a medical certificate for a worker to say that he was suffering from influenza. The attitude of the representative of the firm is racist.

Photo taken of the Annandale Observer, January 1917

We were intrigued by Doctor Flament. How had he ended up practicing medicine in Carlisle during World War One? What was his experiences of being a Black doctor in this time and area? And where did he end up?

The search to answer these questions brought to light a very interesting man. The first clue to Doctor Flament’s life story, and his full name, was provided in the above article, which stated that he trained at the University of Edinburgh. A quick search of the UK’s medical registers, held by Ancestry, yielded immediate results. A Jules Michael Ralph Flament, who resided at 30 Spencer Street, Carlisle, was on the register in 1907. It stated that he’d graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1904, with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery.

UK Medical Register of 1907, courtesy of Ancestry

During this time in Britain, Black medical professionals faced rife discrimination. In 1910, Harold Moody graduated top of his class with a degree in medicine. Despite this, he was denied work because of his race, and eventually established his own medical practice. During World War One, Doctor John Alcindor, who (like Flament) had graduated from the University of Edinburgh, was ‘rejected outright by the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 because of his ‘colonial origin’’

In 1901, Flament was living in Edinburgh, and going by his middle name, Ralph. He was a border in a house belonging to Ann Henderson, a widow living on her own means, and was a surgical student. In 1904, Flament married Leonora Murray in Edinburgh.

The marriage register of Doctor Flament and Leonora Murray

However, shortly after his marriage, he appears to have moved to Carlisle. In 1904, Doctor Flament appeared in the Maryport Advertiser. He dressed the wounds of a lady who had been the victim of an alleged attempted murder. The next year he was the victim of a crime–a man had obtained £1 from him by false pretences. This man, who was named Charles Wm. Seaton, had told Dr Flament that he represented an agency who wished to appoint a medical officer, but the appointee had to take out insurance. In the 1911 census, Doctor Flament is described as 32 years old, married and he was born in ‘The Port of Spain, Trinidad.’ He is also described as being a ‘British subject by birth and parentage.’ He is living with two domestic servants, Annie and Annabella Graham, both 19. His wife, Leonara, isn’t living with him.

In my search for Doctor Flament, I kept coming across oblique references to him being struck off by the British Medical Council, at the instigation of the Ministry of Munitions in 1919, and his name being reinstated in 1931. I couldn’t find out why he’d been struck off though, until I came across a record in the South African Medical Journal:

Doctor Flament was struck off for providing a woman with access to an abortion, decades before it was legal to do so in the UK. The fact that The Ministry of Munitions was a complainant could indicate that the woman to whom this medicine was given was a munitions worker.

I haven’t found any records for Doctor Flament during the 1920s, but it appears that he moved to Mexico. On 17th February 1931, Doctor Flament married Concepción González, and later that year they had a child, Maria. I haven’t been able to pin down what happened to his first wife, Leonora, so it’s possible that they divorced or Doctor Flament was a widower. Doctor Flament died in Mexico on 23rd January 1950. He left effects of £1749 3s 3d. He was working at Doctor Falcon’s Mental Institute at the time of his death.

Doctor Flament’s life and career is important to highlight, because he showcases that Black people are and have always been a crucial part of our collective cultural heritage. However, it is also clear that in the course of his life, Doctor Flament was subject to racism and discrimination. With Remembrance Day fast approaching, when we think of those who worked so hard during the global conflicts of the 20th century it is important to remember and commemorate the Black and Brown people who were soldiers, nurses, munitions workers and in any other job who contributed to the war effort.

Record from August 1913 of travel to Canada

Worker of the Week: Charlotte Marcella Forbes

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week volunteer Marilyn shares her research into Marcella Charlotte Forbes.

Marcella Charlotte Forbes was born in Malta in 1875 to John Forbes , Quartermaster major in the 1st Battallion 42nd Highlanders, Black Watch and Louisa Marcella nee Couch, daughter of a builder.

Marcella was the third of seven children born to John and Louisa between 1869 and 1886 and was named after her maternal grandmother Marcella Charloltte . Louisa was born in Madras , India which is where we can assume she met John, 14 years her senior. They married in Bengal on 4th February 1867 when Louisa was just 17 and John 36. John hailed from Moulin, Perth. Census return for 1861 give his early career as a bank clerk.

Their first child, Annie Emily was born in India in 1868 . They must have moved to Edinburgh within the year as Eleanor Maude Marcella Forbes arrived on 5th July 1869, her birth registration stating that she was born at Edinburgh Castle. This 19 year old young mother had 2 daughters. Contradictory information tells us that John enlisted in September 1873 , maybe he was in a different regiment or military position prior to that.

His posting took the family to Malta where Marcella Charlotte was born in 1875 followed by a fourth daughter Gertrude H in 1879.

On return from Malta, the 1881 census has the family living at Aldershot Barracks, John’s role is Quartermaster. By 22nd November 1882 they were in Edinburgh when Henry Maurice was born at 21 Scotland Street ( birth registration )

1884 saw the arrival of Gilbert Athole and finally in 1886 Beatrice Georgina Frederica was born, both at 18 Belle Vue Crescent, Edinburgh. Their father is shown as retired on both registrations. He possibly retired at 50.

The 1891 census return places the Forbes family at yet another Edinburgh residence- 69 Morningside Drive. John is 54, Louisa 40, Anne E 23, Eleanor 21, Marcella 16, Gertrude 12, Henry 9, Gilbert 7 and Beatrice 5. They also afford a young female servant. Anne and Eleanor are both listed as Pupil Governess.

It is unclear when John died but it must have been between the 1891 census and 1898 when Louisa is listed in the electoral register as the only eligible voter in yet another Edinburgh residence – 45 Merchiston Crescent.

We learn from ship’s passenger lists that Marcella travelled the world and was a teacher like her older sisters Annie and Eleanor. She sailed to Cape Town from Southampton on 13th October 1897, aged 24 on SS Goth as a teacher. Later evidence in electoral registers tells us that Gertrude also followed this calling and became a governess. There were female teaching agencies available for young ladies who wished to teach across the British overseas territories , evidenced in previous research into Alice Sherwen.

Marcella is back in Scotland in 1901 , both she and sister Eleanor listed as her companion are visiting 7 Melville Terrace Stirling at the time of the census.

Gertrude, 22, is listed at The Manse, Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire as a governess for an 8 year old child

Louisa moved again showing on the 1903-04 electoral register at 13 Forbes Rd, Edinburgh and the 1904-05 register at 1 Granville Terrace, showing both times as the tenant and occupier.

Marcella sailed again on 19th October 1905 , London to Bombay 1st class on SS Egypt. She was now 30.

In 1906, aged 24, Henry Maurice enlisted and his war service records show that he was in South Africa- Cape Colony, Transvaal and Orange Free State. The same record shows that he resigned his commission on 26th February 1908. He returned to his career in banking which he certainly was engaged in in 1938/39 at Castlebank , Craig Eric, Edinburgh ( Electoral register)

5th July 1913 finds Marcella sailing from Sydney to London on SS Commonwealth, a teacher aged 38. It is unclear when she sailed out to Sydney.

She stayed home a short while before sailing from Glasgow to Montreal on SS Hesperian, teacher on 1st August 1913.

Marcella took up war work at HM Factory Gretna some time between 1916 and 1918. Like many other female teachers from middle class backgrounds she became a Matron at Grace Darling House. She is listed on the valuation roll for 1918-19. She is also listed under staff addresses in the Dornock Farewell Magazine giving an address of 8 Hope Crescent, Edinburgh. The roles of welfare supervisors, matrons, WPS all appealed to women with similar backgrounds to Marcella. She would have been 43.

The only sister who did not follow a teaching career was Beatrice who sadly died in Birmingham on 12th May 1918 aged 32. Her probate lists her as a nurse of 8 Hope Crescent , the same address as Marcella. Probate granted to sister Anne Emily Forbes, teacher also of 8 Hope Crescent. The 1918-1919 electoral register for Edinburgh has Anne listed at 20 Laden Street.

The only sibling not yet accounted for is Gilbert who joined the Black Watch like his father ( Forces war records). We know that he became a clergyman – he is listed in January 1947 sailing from Southampton to New York aged 62, on the Queen Elizabeth. His address is 51 Bishop’s Gate London EC2. There is no evidence that any of the 7 siblings married.

Marcella appears on the electoral register for 1926 and subsequent years at 13 Forbes Road but her mother died at 8 Hope Crescent aged 82 in 1936.

Marcella died aged 72 on 5th June 1948 at 1, Elliott Road Edinburgh.

Perhaps she kept a diary of her travels.

Graduation photo of HM Lowe.

Worker of the Week: Harry Marchanton Lowe

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week volunteer Peter shares his research into his grandfather, Harry Marchanton Lowe.

Harry was born on 5th November 1890 in Manchester. His father, Francis, was a house painter who owned his own business and employed at least one man, and his mother, Elizabeth, worked as a teacher before her marriage. In June 1908, Harry began studying at Manchester Pupil Teacher College, following in the footsteps of his mother. He also made paint from raw ores; size and distemper  for his father’s painting business.

In October 1909 Harry started to attend Manchester University, where he studied Chemistry, Physics, Maths, and German. Sometime after June 1912, Harry resigned from the College. He began working at Ironhirst Peat Works at Mouswald, before moving to Chance & Hunt H.M. Factory, Site B., Oldbury, Worcestershire in December 1915.

H M Lowe and his address mentioned in the Dornock Farewell, one of the staff magazines at HM Factory Gretna.

In August 1917, Harry married Jessie. They would have three children–Mary, Jessie and Alexander. Mary was born at Dornock, which was where Harry was working at the time–at HM Factory Gretna. Harry was in charge of explosives production, and he and his family lived on Falkland Road in Eastriggs.

Peter has a great collection of family stories relating to his grandfather.

Family stories: 

    1. responsible for fire at St Pancras that destroyed much of station.
    2. recommended showers for all explosives workers before going off shift. However, there were vociferous complaints by the women against taking showers; they were afraid they would be spied on by the men and some felt it wasn’t natural to wash all over every day.
    3. recommended all explosive workers to be checked before starting to ensure no metal.
    4. recommended all explosive workers to wear garments without pockets.
    5. recommended all workers mixing chemicals wear a mask covering face and nose.
    6. A particular problem, he said, was that women would arrive with metal hairslides and hair pins in their hair and be very indignant when told to remove them.
    7. His daughter, Jessie, ‘remembered’ that he managed the stirring of the ‘devil’s porridge’.
    8. Invented or extended the “Noughts and Crosses” cipher, which although simple to use, is difficult to decode, especially when used in drawings.
    9. At Dorman Long, he worked on tar distillation and production of artificial fibres.
    10. He taught mechanics at a local WorkingMan’s institute.
    11. Devised lots of mathematical puzzles, including knight’s tours, crossnumber, and the puzzle now known as Sudoku (I think he called it NumberFit!).
    12. On his way to a conference, he stayed overnight at the County Hotel, Selkirk. He had a disturbed night because all night, a lady in a long white Victorian dress walked past the foot of his bed and out through the wall. He mentioned this to the hotelier the next morning, who begged him not to tell anyone and cancelled his bill. The current owner is a Norwegian. He hadn’t heard this story but he did say that other guests (before he took over) had seen ghosts.
    13. Claimed to be English Draughts Champion but name doesn’t appear in English Draughts Association’s list of champions, however I never saw him lose a game of draughts.
    14. I saw an article in Boys Own Paper (the 1898 volume) about how to make a bang. I tried it and there was no bang. I told my grandfather and he told me I was very lucky to be alive. He demonstrated how to make it safely and properly. He put some on a tree stump, threw a stone and nothing happened. He threw a very heavy hammer at it and there was a loud bang. It destroyed the hammer and split the stump. “That could have been your hand or head” he said.
    15. Was intensively competitive, especially at Scrabble
    16. Spoke and read German and went to conferences in Europe.
    17. Around 1935, on the road near Foyers, while dealing with a puncture, saw Loch Ness monster carrying off a lamb.

In 1946, Peter was elected as a fellow of the Institute of Chemistry, and in 1954 he retired. He passed away in St Albans in 1979.

A horse pulled wagon with Hegla Gill on doing suffrage work.

Worker of the Week: Helga Gill

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week Research Assistant Laura shares volunteer Peter’s research into Helga Gill.

We only found out about Helga’s connections with HM Factory Gretna in an obituary written after her sudden and untimely death in 1928. Published in The Woman’s Leader, a publication closely associated with the National Union of Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), it is mentioned:

“She [Helga] mothered and disciplined the girl workers in the great explosive works at Gretna, and steadied them in the darkened buildings under the purr of the Zeppelin overhead.”[1]

So how did this woman who seemed at first glance to have connections the women’s suffrage movement end up at working at HM Factory Gretna? One of our volunteers, Peter, was determined to find out!

Helga Gill was born in Bergan, Norway, in 1885. Her parents were Johan Klerk Gill and Karen Marie Ottilia Gill, and Helga grew up the oldest of six siblings. Having completed her education in Norway, Helga went on holiday to Britain, and it was there that she became acquainted with the Corbett family.

The Corbett family were a prominent political family then based in East Grinstead. Marie Corbett was a poor law guardian, suffragist and supporter of the Liberal party. Her husband, Charles, was a barrister and MP elected in 1906 for the Liberal party. Their daughters, Cicely and Margery, were both feminist activists.

Cicely Corbett Fisher. Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. (1913).

It was at a celebration party for Charles’ recent election to parliament in January 1906, that Helga first enters the historical picture. According to Mapping Women’s Suffrage, Helga appeared on a platform alongside the Corbett family.[2] However, it wasn’t until 1908 that Helga began to appear regularly in newspaper articles for her suffrage activism.

As a Norwegian woman, Helga had been able to vote in national elections in her own country provided she could establish that she made a minimum income or if she was married to a male voter from 1907. These requirements were abolished in 1913, when universal suffrage was established in Norway.[3]

Helga participated in the Worcester by-election in 1908, speaking to local audiences and putting pressure on candidates to declare whether or not they supported women’s suffrage.[4] She ‘made herself stiff’ chalking notices on to the pavement, and drove a ‘press cart’ that was stocked with copies of Votes for Women to be handed out upon the release of WSPU prisoners.[5] She began giving lectures, [6] and took part in local election activism in Chelmsford.[7] Mapping Women’s Suffrage states that by this point she was an NUWSS organiser, and regularly travelling the country to spread the suffrage word![8]

Helga pictured doing suffrage work

This hard work only continued in 1909 and beyond. In 1909 she was appointed organiser for Lancashire, as well as participating in by-election campaigns in Edinburgh, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Mid Derbyshire. She spent a month in Wales, and in the summer undertook a horse-drawn caravan campaign across the country with fellow NUWSS supporters.[9]

Like so many suffrage activists, Helga was dedicated to the cause, and spent the years before the outbreak of war in 1914 criss-crossing the country, giving talks and spreading the message. Her perspective as a Norwegian woman who, in her own country possessed the vote, was a valuable one and was often highlighted in promotional material.[10] By 1912 she was a paid employee of the NUWSS, as Organiser for Oxford, Berks, and Bucks. In that same year, she was sent on a tour of Ireland by the NUWSS.[11] Writing about her after her death, Helga’s colleagues gave a sense of her character:

‘Her pluck was marvellous. When the fishermen refused to listen she accepted their challenge and sailed one of their boats over a dangerous bar. She won the bet and addressed a sympathetic crowd, as the gleet lay at anchor, from one of the decks. “Women don’t know nothing,” came from a heckler. “Ask what you like,” was the quick retort, and the crowd cheered as she recited accurately the batting averages of different countries! We cherish the vision of Helga rebuffed by a ducal butler. The duke intervened, and as aplogy offered to show her round the priceless picture gallery. “No thanks, your graciousness, I haven’t time.”’[12]

Even the famous leader of the suffragists, Millicent Fawcett, noted ‘the delightful personality of the late Helga Gill.”[13]

But in 1914 war broke out, and the NUWSS pivoted to aiding the war effort. One of their war projects was the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH). Sprearheaded by pioneering doctor, Elsie Inglis, and funded by donations, the SWH was a groups of medical units staffed entirely by women. With bases established in France and Serbia during the war, the doctors, drivers, nurses and orderlies of the SWH cared for badly injured soldiers and were stationed close to the front line. They often demonstrated bravery in the most trying of cirmcumstances—many worked whilst under fire and some SWH members even died in the course of their duties.[14]

Helga pictured as part of her SWH unit.

It appears Helga was involved with the SWH from its inception. In December 1914, she left for France as part of the French Hospital Unit. Her role was described as a ‘dresser’. However, once at Royamount Abbey, where the hospital was based, Helga worked as an ambulance driver, transporting injured men from the front line to the hospital. This was a particularly dangerous job, and she was often ‘in danger of being killed by shells.”[15] During one particularly fraught drive, “Between the line and the hospital her back wheels were shot away, her driving wheel was splintered between her hands.’[16]

In addition to this, essential medical tools were in short supply. In 1915 Helga wrote a letter to an NUWSS branch ’ sending greetings to the meeting and appealing for help, “the men were dying like flies from preventable causes.”[17] Helga was awarded a number of medals for her service, British War Medal, British Victory Medal, Croix de Guerre, and Medaille des Epidemies.

The stress of working so close to the front and in such a high pressure job had adverse effects on Helga’s heart, and so she came to work at HM Factory Gretna. As she is described in her obiturary as ‘mothering’ and ‘disciplining the girls’, I suspect she was part of the Welfare Department at the factory.

The Welfare Department, although Helga isn’t pictured

As described by our volunteer Virginia in her excellent article on welfare[18]:

“Lady superintendents were a vital part in the operations of a munition factory. Behind the factory walls, lady superintendents were the hidden cornerstones of support for female munition workers during the demands of the First World War. In maintaining the health and wellbeing of her workers, lady superintendents enabled factory production to continue and the demands of War to be efficiently met. Therefore, lady superintendents should be regarded as protecting the progress of munition factories during the First World War, as much as guardians of welfare.”

After the war ended, Helga adopted a child and became heavily involved in the Women’s Institute. However, her health was permanently affected from her war time service. Her death was sudden and tragic. She passed away after a car accident in 1928, aged only 43.

[1] The Women’s Leader, 30th November 1928, p. 7.


[3] Blom, I., 1980. The struggle for women’s suffrage in Norway, 1885–1913. Scandinavian Journal of History, 5(1-4), pp.3-22.

[4] Women’s Franchise, 6th February 1908, p. 6.

[5] Women’s Franchise, 13th February 1908, p. 6.; Votes for Women, 24th September 1908, p. 4.

[6] Women’s Franchise, 17th December 1908, p. 6.; Women’s Franchise, 24th December 1908, p. 6.

[7] Women’s Franchise, 24th December 1908, p. 6.



[10] For example see: Lisburn Standard, 3rd February 1912, p. 4.

[11] Common Cause, 9th May 1912, p. 8.

[12] Common Cause, 30th November 1928, p. 7.

[13] Common Cause, 7 December 1928. P. 2.

[14] Crofton, E., 2012. The women of Royaumont. Edinburgh: John Donald.

[15] Newcastle Daily Chronicle, 27th November 1915, p. 4.

[16] The Women’s Leader, 30th November 1928, p. 7.

[17] Common Cause 19th February 1915., p. 11.

[18] Guardians of Welfare: The Role of Female Superintendents in Munition Factories and their Contribution to Female Workers during the First World War – Devils Porridge Museum

Colourised photo of the Mossband Swifts football team from 1917.

Women’s Football at Gretna

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 Stuart writes about his research into football at Gretna.

Women’s football is not new and was recorded in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries. One reference, talks of a match between Scottish Border towns of Lennel and Coldstream, on the Ash Wedensday of 1786 (February 21st 1786). A literary magazine The Berwick Museum noted that the female teams did battle with ‘uncommon keenness’. On January 25th 1896 Mrs Graham (Helen Matthew) visited the Warwick Road Rugby Ground in Carlisle with her resident opposition, London & District to slug out an uninspired 0-0 draw. In a later fixture against a Gentlemen’s XI in Penrith, Mrs Graham’s side won 4-3 and it was noted that the ladies played better against the men’s side than they did against fellow women.

Helen Matthew appeared at the Warwick Road Rugby Ground with her side Mrs Graham’s XI in 1896

An increased need for munitions during WW1 saw centres for arms production spring up across the country. A large proportion of the work force employed were women and among the sports they played football was particularly prevalent. By the spring of 1917 few areas in the country did not have a women’s football side. HM Gretna was no different from other centres producing at least three sides. Little, however, is known about these teams with few references of their activities in the press. Sports in general received sparse coverage with hockey limited to one small article; even the Gretna and Dornock men’s leagues only received coverage for one round of fixtures on 23 November 1917. In view of this, women’s football did better than most and from the copy that was produced new details can be revealed.

In a report on the recreation department’s activities, Ernest Taylor noted that ‘one or two’ sides played on pitches supplied by the Recreation Department. He also observed that there was ‘some division of opinion as to the wisdom on encouraging them to pursue this branch of sport’. For members of the Gretna Social and Athletic committee such as Kenneth Wolfe-Barry or Mabel Cotterell, football for women would have been anthemia but it wasn’t quite so out of the ordinary for Ernest Taylor. As a newspaper man in the south east during the 1890s he was familiar with the various sides, including Mrs Graham’s XI. From his time on the committee of the London Football Association he would also have been aware of the motion put forward to the full FA Council in 1902 by Kent FA Chairman, J. Albert, to prohibit league clubs from competing against women’s sides. The Athletic Committee didn’t recognise the women’s sides and they initially weren’t part of formal events. By the same token the sides weren’t prohibited either, the core objective of keeping the workers occupied in the plant and away from outside influences remained paramount.

A Gretna side pictured in the winter of 1917 a manager from the Mossband section J.S. Parker can be seen on the far left

The first side from the works appeared during June 1917 for a match against Carlisle Munition Girls at the city’s Brunton Park. The side called the Gretna Girls seem to have been drawn from the ranks of the established hockey teams. One player that has been identified, Jessie Rome Latimer seems to appear in a team picture of the Dornock Hockey side. Born in Annan in 1891 Jessie was active in local music and drama groups taking part in fund rising concerts for war charities. At the Gretna works she performed as part of a variety concert at the Central Hall in Eastriggs on May 17 1917. There are no records of her exploits on the hockey field but there was a substantial write up of the Gretna Girls visit to Carlisle on 9 June 1917.

Possible image of Jessie Latimer from Dornock Hockey side team picture 1917 and a later picture of Jessie taken in the 1920s

During the summer of 1917 a new side formed at the Mossband section. Called the Mossband Swifts the squad was made up largely from the workers of A Shift. Mossband’s captain was A. Riddell and a possible candidate in the records is Annie Riddell, born in Galashiels in 1899.

Possible image of A. Riddell captain of the Mossband Swifts

This is yet to be confirmed but another player Mary Annie Anderson has been identified as having played for the side. Born in Scotland at Kirkpatrick Fleming, a village close to Annan, she was 16 when she started playing for the Swifts. An early match for the side was at Maryport where they took part in football competition as part of the Alexander Day Sports Fete. This was one of the early women’s football tournaments the first taking place in Woverhampton in March 1917 these small competitions led to larger events such as the Workington Cup, the Barrow Shield and most famous of all the, Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup.

Mossband Swifts side August 1917 Mossband section manager Herbert Hawtin can be seen standing second from the right

It wasn’t a good trip to Maryport for the Swifts, however, losing 1-0 in the first round to the eventual tournament winners Cockermouth. On September 15th the Mossband Swifts visited Carlisle where they met workers of the local Cumberland works at Brunton Park home of Carlisle Utd. The Carlisle side went ahead after Miss Graham scored from a first half penalty. In the second period however Mary Anderson took the ball up field and her cross into the area, found M. McAdo to equalise. McAdo scored again but it was ruled offside and another chance just before time was missed, leaving the match tied at 1-1.

Carlisle Journal Aug 1917 Mossband at the Maryport competition

The Swifts made further trips to Carlisle in December 1917 and in January 1918 met a side consisting of wounded soldiers. Mossband players were also part of the Carlisle Munitions Girls side when they took on Blyth Spartans in the spring of 1918. Blyth were well on their way to winning Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup and the strengthened Carlisle side were no match. Star player Bella Reay bagged a total of five goals as Blyth won handsomely over the two legs.

Carlisle Munition Girls played at Brunton Park from 1917 to 1918

However, attitudes within the Gretna plant towards the women’s teams seemed to change. Matches were included in the programme for fund raising events during May 1918 with new sides forming at Broomhills, an acid section to the far south of Eastriggs, to take part. On 17 August 1918 a women’s football tournament was organised as part of the Munitions workers carnival held at Eastriggs. The tournament included B Shift and C Shift from Broomhills, but again there are few details of the matches or an indication of the eventual winners.

Broomhills Canteen

The report in the Annandale Observer seemed to be more interested in the crowd::


The Ladies Football matches called for a crowd of enthusiastic and amused spectators, who “played the game” in the full sprit of football patronage, cheering and encouraging their favourite team or player as occasion demanded.


This was the last reference to women’s football at Gretna. After the war, Jessie Latimer married a dentist William Armstrong Fyfe in 1920. They lived in Edinburgh and later in Grimsby where William worked at a dental practice on the Grimsby Road until 1929 when William died. Following her husband’s death Jessie moved back to Scotland and lived for many years in Lockerby where she died in April 1958. Mary Annie Anderson settled in Carlisle and in the spring of 1921 married Joseph Irving Lightfoot a former army veteran. By 1939 Mary was working in unpaid domestic work while Joseph was a Railway goods guard. Joseph Lightfoot died in 1964 and Mary Annie Lightfoot in 1976.

Dumfries Ladies and Dick Kerr players at Warwick Road Rugby Ground in 1923

There is no evidence that either player continued with football after leaving Gretna. Many of the old factory sides disbanded after the war but new sides formed and by the 1920s matches were taking place in the district once again. Dumfries Ladies founded in the autumn of 1921 playing against Dick Kerr Ladies at Queen of the South’s ground and in 1923 they met again in Carlisle at the Warwick Road ground. It is often stated that women’s football fizzed out after the FA’s ‘ban’ in 1921 but this is close to being a sporting myth. Although the actions of the football authorities seriously hurt the women’s game, it did continue and matches played during the 1920s and 30s could still attract between ten and fifteen thousand spectators. When a French Select and the successor side to Dick Kerr, Preston Ladies, visited Warwick Road, Carlisle in 1953, they too attracted a large crowd. A former organiser of the Carlisle Munition Girls, Alfred Punnett, was also there and welcomed the sides in his role as Carlisle’s Mayor. There are still local sides competing today, with Annan Athletic Women entering the Scottish League in 2019 and Carlisle United Women winning the Cumberland County Cup in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Agnes Barr Auchencloss and Gosta Lundholm in a car.

Workers of the Week: Agnes Barr Auchencloss and Gosta Lundholm

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week Research Assistant Laura shares her research into Agnes Barr Auchencloss and Gosta Lundholm.

Agnes and Gosta were a married couple, who both worked at HM Factory Gretna during WW1. Agnes, a qualified doctor, worked as a medical officer, and Gosta, who was, before the war, an experienced chemist working at the Modderfotein Explosives Factory in South Africa, became Assistant Section Manager of the Nitro-Glycerine Section.

Gosta was born at Polmont Cottage in Stirlingshire, Scotland, in 1886. His father, Carl Olof, was a manager of a Dynamite Works and had been born in Sweden, although by 1891 he was a naturalised British subject. The Lundholm family had a long association with both the manufacture of explosives and Alfred Nobel, the famous Swedish chemist who held the patent for dynamite. Lundholm family lore tells that Gosta’s grandfather, Ola Lundholm, was the secret illegitimate son of the Swedish King–King Charles XIV John.

Agnes was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1886. Her father, James Currie Auchencloss (also spelt Auchenschloss and Auchencloss in some sources) was a starch manufacturer according to her birth record. Agnes was, for a woman of her time period, highly educated — she graduated with a medical degree from the University of Glasgow in 1911, and before she married Gosta worked in the Royal Alexandra Infirmary in her hometown. Gosta attended the Edinburgh Academy for his schooling and later studied chemistry at the Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum in Zürich. After graduating, he obtained a job in South Africa.

Agnes in her graduation robes

Gosta and Agnes married in Cape Town in July 1914, having their first son, Eric Olof, the following year. However, on the outbreak of war Gosta’s skills in chemistry were desperately needed back at home, and so from June 1916 he began working at HM Factory Gretna. Agnes and Eric Olof joined him, the family living at No. 9 The Ridge.

In 1917, King George V and Queen Mary toured the factory, and Agnes met Their Majesties. She said to the King: “It’s good to be in the hands of a kent face” Kent means well known, or familiar. The King appreciated Agnes’ remark!

Gordon Routledge describes Gosta as one of the ‘leading chemists’ at HM Factory Gretna, and it appears that he was well-known and well liked there! He appears in the Mossband Farewell, one of the magazines put together by staff at the end of the war. Although we know less about Agnes’ role at the factory, it is probable that as a medical officer in a munitions factory, she was kept busy attending to injuries and illnesses, and also regularly checking worker’s health given how often they came into contact with dangerous chemicals.

After the war, the family returned to South Africa, with Gosta returning to his job at the explosives factory. Agnes offered medical aid to locals, and her son Eric Olof later wrote of one particular occasion when there was: “an Afrikaner family on a farmstead out on the veldt, stricken by typhoid fever. My Mother did not drive, but my Father would drive us to the isolated farm where my Mother did all she could, and sorrowed for the Parents when alas some of the children died.” Agnes and Gosta had their second child, a son named Alan, in 1921.

Gosta Lundholm

The Lundholm family returned to Scotland in the 1920s. Gosta continued his career, working firstly Superintendent of the Lead Azide manufacture at Westquarter, Nobel’s ICI Detonator Factory, and then as Senior Superintendent at the new Detonator Department at Ardeer. Agnes joined the Women’s Citizen Association and regularly visited the poorhouse, and the boys attended local schools. In the Ardeer Employee Information, Gosta is described as:

he loved motoring, tennis for which he won several cups, and later in life, sailing. Also DIY long before the term was coined. He had a pleasant singing voice and loved opera.
Towards the end of 1967 he took part in a sound radio documentary about the factory in the sandhills…. He was in great demand for factory dinners, recollects his son, Alan. He was teetotaller and could safely transport a carload to and from!

Gosta retired in the 1940s, and passed away in 1969, with Agnes passing three years later. Their son, Eric Olof, later spoke about his parents in an oral history interview:

My father and mother were very good people…Mother’s family lived in Paisley near Glasgow, her father died young, worked in the manufactory of cornflower. Mother qualified as a medical doctor in 1911. Father was working in a Factory in South Africa, parents married in Cape Town. Father studied chemistry in Zurich, but took a British qualification in Industrial Chemistry…but when the war started he was brought back to Britain to an enormous munitions factory at Gretna in the South of Scotland, and my mother came with him, and myself also, and my mother was employed as a factory doctor there…My father was a very quiet sort of person but I think very loving of his wife and of myself and my brother Alan…An interesting coincidence here, when my mother qualified as a doctor she went for one of her early postgraduate jobs to the Royal Alexander Infirmary in Paisley, a small hospital, and in 1950 when I qualified, my first year as a doctor was in that same hospital and I may indeed have occupied the same bed sitting room, I would have certainly eaten meals in the same dining room as she did so many years before.

Gosta, Agnes, and one of their sons.

Chief Lady Superintendent Miss Lilian Barker CBE, Woolwich Arsenal.

Guardians of Welfare: The Role of Female Superintendents in Munition Factories and their Contribution to Female Workers during the First World War

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 Virginia writes about her research into lady superintendents.

The origins of lady superintendents in munition factories originated in mid-1915.[1] As the production of shells increased during this period, the Ministry of Munition needed to maintain the welfare of female munition workers.[2] The role of the lady superintendents, also referred to as Welfare Supervisors, was to, therefore, care for female factory workers.[3] The blog explores the diverse qualities and duties of female superintendents in munition factories during the First World War. Their many responsibilities were vital to guaranteeing the health and wellbeing of munition workers and consequently supporting the War effort.

Qualities of Lady Superintendents in munition factories during the First World War

Maintaining welfare in a munition factory required lady superintendents to possess and reflect various qualities to address the different needs of individual workers. They also had to understand and effectively respond to the demands and challenges munition factories posed.

In his book, ‘The Woman’s Part: A Record of Munitions Work’, from 1918, L.K. Yates referred to lady superintendents as ‘capable.’[4] Yates suggests that they had to be skilful and effective when addressing the needs and enquiries of their female workers. To do this required lady superintendents to be adaptable towards each female worker.

The need to be astute also applies to lady superintendents in munition factories. They had to assess situations and implement suitable responses to maintain the welfare of female workers, whilst maintaining efficiency in the factory.  In the ‘Monthly Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’, employers in Britain’s munition factories praise the efficiency of lady superintendents towards work problems.[5] Lady superintendents were valued by their employees and munition factory operatives deemed their work essential in enabling the factory to run.

Another quality that applied to the role of lady superintendents was authoritativeness. To protect workers from the dangers of working in a munition factory, they had to uphold order and discipline amongst female workers. Under her supervision, workers did not become distracted or disorderly, which supported their safety and further enabled efficiency in meeting production demands.

As Welfare Supervisors, lady superintendents had to be dependable for female workers requiring her help. They also had to be reliable in effectively addressing the needs and concerns of workers. Due to this, lady superintendents were given a great responsibility in being a constant source of support and comfort for female munition workers during the War.


Roles of Lady Superintendents during the First World War

Guardians of Welfare

From their establishment in 1915, the main role of lady superintendents was to ensure the welfare of female munition workers. Within this duty, they were responsible for inspecting restrooms so that they met health standards.[6] Lady superintendents also inspected workrooms to maintain a healthy working environment.[7] They would report poor ventilation and uncleanness, for example, to the manager for correction.[8]

Lady superintendents were also responsible for providing healthy living conditions for factory workers.[9] If a lady superintendents deemed these unsuitable, she had the authority to inform the factory manager.[10] Aside from maintaining the health and wellbeing of female workers in the factory, these responsibilities infiltrated into the private lives of female workers. This reflects the extensive lengths lady superintendents went to in order to protect their workers.

Due to the limited availability of the factory manager to regularly inspect the factory, lady superintendents were crucial in preventing health risks in the factory. They also advised the factory manager on the physical health of individual workers.[11] In outlining dangers to the factory manager and providing information on the health of workers, lady superintendents reflected their duty of care towards female workers. However, this also enabled factory production to meet demands.

Dame Lilian Barker was a prominent Lady Superintendent at Woolwich Arsenal and oversaw 30,000 female workers.[12] Lilian knew all of her female workers individually, enabling her to respond to their personal needs.[13] In 1944, she received a DBE for her “services in connection with the welfare of women and girl.’’[14] Her DBE signifies the extents she went to and significant impact she had, in ensuring the health and wellbeing of her female workers.


Chief Lady Superintendent Miss Lilian Barker CBE, Woolwich Arsenal. Courtesy of Imperial War Museums. © IWM WWC D8-4-158. [15]

Other welfare issues addressed to factory managers concerned the suitability of work for female workers.[16] Lady superintendents observed women’s work in the munition factory and reported work they deemed unfit for workers.[17] In doing so, lady superintendents incorporated their astuteness to provide their duty of care for female workers and maintain their health.

Lady superintendents also had medical responsibilities including curing illnesses, cooperating with nurses and doctors alongside managing first aid.[18] According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics in 1918, they also had the ability to make long term positive changes to women’s health. For example, they could offer appropriate diets and exercises for women.[19] They were also expected to identify fatigue in workers and advise women on how to preserve energy, such as changing their posture.[20] Through their advice, lady Superintendents further helped to maintain the health and efficiency of factories.

Addressing complaints was another responsibility of lady superintendents which contributed to the welfare of workers. Alongside knowing the wages of all workers, they had to report complaints, including wages to the manager.[21] For the female workers, lady superintendents provided a voice for their concerns within the factory. Lady superintendents, therefore, helped to relieve anxiety and stress amongst workers, reducing discontent in the factory.[22]

Through these various responsibilities, lady superintendents sought to prevent mistreatment of female workers and ensure them that she was the guardians of their welfare.[23]

Domestic responsibilities

To further support their provision of welfare, lady superintendents managed catering so that factory workers were well nourished.[24] They also guaranteed a supply of workwear, including overalls and shoes, further enabling the factory to run efficiently.[25]

A significant responsibility of female superintendents was supervising night shifts.[26] Not only did they provide continued protection for workers during the night, but her supervision prevented disorderly behaviour, which threatened production.

Moral and Social Responsibilities

In 1917, an employer of a munition factory in Britain stated:

’Generally speaking, we consider it very essential to have a lady superintendent where female workers are employed, and especially where there are men working in the same department.’’[27]

The need to have a lady superintendent amongst a male and female workforce strengthens the guardianship role of Lady Superintendents towards female munition workers. The munition manager implies how crucial lady superintendents were in instilling discipline amongst workers and in preventing distractions at work.

Whilst lady superintendents maintained morality in their female workers, they were also important in boosting morale for their female workers during the First World War.[28] Lady superintendents were to reflect positivity towards female munition workers and make sure that women understood the significance of their work during the War.[29]

Similarly to ensuring suitable living conditions for female workers, they visited female workers outside of the home.[30] Their visits emphasise how their duty of care and protection towards female workers extended beyond the munition factory. Visiting homes of workers also enabled lady superintendents to further understand the personal lives of their workers enabling them to effectively respond to their needs.

Lady superintendents also played an important role in the lives of their workers outside the factory by providing recreational activities.[31] Recreational clubs were created by lady superintendents, allowing female munition workers to rest and socialise outside the factory.[32]

Dorothée Aurélie Marianne Pullinger was a Lady Superintendent who catered for workers beyond the munition factory. During the First World War, Dorothee worked at the munition factory under the Vickers engineering company.[33] Overseeing 7000 female workers, she established an apprenticeship scheme for female munition workers.[34] Dorothee’s apprenticeships show that alongside the welfare of workers, she invested in the progression and welfare of her workers even after the War.

Lady superintendents were a vital part in the operations of a munition factory. Behind the factory walls, lady superintendents were the hidden cornerstones of support for female munition workers during the demands of the First World War. In maintaining the health and wellbeing of her workers, lady superintendents enabled factory production to continue and the demands of War to be efficiently met. Therefore, lady superintendents should be regarded as protecting the progress of munition factories during the First World War, as much as guardians of welfare.

By Virginia Quigley


Carr, Jessica, Women’s Work in Munitions Factories during The First World War: Gender, Class and Public Opinion (Northumbria, 2016)

Yates, L.K., The Woman’s Part: A Record of Munitions Work (Alexandria, 1918)

Health of Munition Workers, Great Britain, ‘Monthly Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’

Vol. 2, No. 5 (1916), pp. 66-70

U.S. Department of Labor United States Training Service C.T. Clayton, Industrial Training for Foundry Workers, Training Bulletin  No. 24 (Washington, 1919)

U.S. Department of  Labor Statistics, Proceedings of the Employment Managers’ Conference, Rochester, N.Y., May 9, 10, 11, 1918. January, 1919

Great Britain. Ministry of Munitions. Health of Munition Workers Committee. Welfare Work in British Munition Factories: Reprints of the Memoranda of the British Health of Munition Workers Committee



[1] Jessica Carr, Women’s Work in Munitions Factories during The First World War: Gender, Class and Public Opinion (Northumbria, 2016), p. 14.

[2] Ibid., p. 14.

[3] Ibid., p. 14.

[4] L.K. Yates, The Woman’s Part: A Record of Munitions Work (Alexandria, 1918), p. 60.

[5] Health of Munition Workers, Great Britain, ‘Monthly Review of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’

Vol. 2, No. 5 (1916), p. 68.

[6] U.S. Department of Labor United States Training Service C.T. Clayton, Industrial Training for Foundry Workers, Training Bulletin  No. 24 (Washington, 1919), p. 38.

[7] Ibid., p. 38.

[8] Ibid., p. 38.

[9] Ibid., p. 38.

[10] Ibid., p. 38.

[11] Ibid., p. 38.

[12] (accessed: 19/08/2021)

[13] Carr, Women’s Work, p. 14.

[14] (accessed: 19/08/2021)

[15], accessed: 25/08/2021

[16] Ibid., p. 38.

[17] Ibid., p. 38.

[18] Ibid, p. 39.

[19] U.S. Department of  Labor Statistics, Proceedings of the Employment Managers’ Conference, Rochester, N.Y., May 9, 10, 11, 1918. January, 1919 (Washington, 1919), p. 14.

[20] Ibid., p. 14.

[21] Bulletin, p. 38.

[22] Ibid., p. 38.

[23] Ibid., p. 37.

[24] Great Britain. Ministry of Munitions. Health of Munition Workers Committee. Welfare Work in British Munition Factories: Reprints of the Memoranda of the British Health of Munition Workers Committee (Washington, 1917), p. 25.

[25] Bulletin, p 38.

[26] Ibid, p. 39.

[27] Ministry of Munitions, Welfare Work, p. 25.

[28] Bulletin, p. 37.

[29] Ibid., p. 37.

[30] Carr, Women’s Work, p. 14.

[31] Ibid., p. 39.

[32] Ibid., p. 39.

[33], (accessed: 19/08/2021)

[34] Ibid

William Gidley Emmentt in two photos. In one he is sat in a chair and in the other he is working at his desk.

Worker of the Week: William Gidley Emmett

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, volunteer Steve shares his research into William Gidley Emmett.

William Gidley Emmett was the manager of the Cordite Section at Mossband from early 1916 onwards. His background had been in explosives, having already worked in Japan. Following the Great War, he had a successful career travelling the world in the oil refining industry. He later changed careers and became an educationalist, studying the statistical efficacy of examinations at Edinburgh University.

The Emmett brothers, William and Reginald. Photo kindly shared with us by family.

He was born in Beeston, near Nottingham, on 21 August 1887, the son of William Gidley Emmett, a lace curtain manufacturer, and Annie Marie Emmett. He was educated at Nottingham High School and won a scholarship to study Natural Sciences at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1905, graduating with an MA in 1908. He specialised in explosives.

His first job was as an Analytical Research Chemist at Chilworth Gunpowder Co. in Surrey, then in 1912 he moved to the Japanese Explosives Co. in Hiratsuka, Japan. He returned to Britain following the outbreak of the First World War. He was appointed as Assistant Manager of the guncotton section at the HM Factory Queens Ferry in Flintshire, South Wales. In early 1916 he then became Section Manager of the Cordite Section at the Mossband site at HM Factory, Gretna.

W G Emmett pictured in the Mossband Farwell, the magazine put together by HM Factory Gretna workers.

William wrote about his time at Gretna in an unpublished memoir. He describes how production was built up slowly with an initial workforce of 100 women. Production was ramped-up to eventually employ 6,000 workers, nearly all women, working three shifts. On one occasion the plant had a visit from King George V and Queen Mary, the latter apparently remarking that William seemed very young. On days off he would ride his motorbike, a one-cylinder Triumph, with several other staff to the Lake District and go walking or go to Powfoot on the Solway Firth to play golf. On Saturday nights he would ride into Carlisle for a slap-up dinner and a variety show. He contributed to the Mossband Farewell, praising the hard work, dedication and comradeship of all the workers who contributed to the war effort at HM Gretna.

I was lodged in a wooden bungalow in Gretna village, along with a few of the senior cordite staff. I had my motor-bike with me, a single-cylinder Triumph, which took me daily from Gretna in Scotland over the border to Mossband…On most Saturday evenings I went into Carlisle, 10 miles away, with Daddy Henderson [a fellow worker and Emmett’s close friend] on the back of my bike. Here we would have a steak and chips meal followed by a variety show at the theatre.

— Extract from W. G. Emmett’s unpublished memoir

William Gidley Emmett (front row) pictured alongside his fellow operating staff in the Mossband Farewell.

At the end of the war, in 1919 he went to work for Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company, visiting oil refineries in Dutch Borneo, Java and Sumatra studying processes. In 1920 he was appointed as manager of the Anglo-Egyptian Oilfields refinery in Suez, and in 1922 was manager of the Sarawak Oilfields refinery at Miri in Sarawak. In 1923 he visited the USA and studied processes at oil refineries in St Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans. A year later in 1924 he was appointed manager of the refinery section at the Royal Dutch Petroleum in Curacao

Health concerns forced him to return to Britain in 1925, where he became a researcher in chemistry at Birmingham University. There he met an old colleague, C W Valentine, who was conducting research on the reliability and predictive power of examinations. In 1931, William embarked on a new career as an educationalist by studying the statistical methods applicable to assessing the efficacy of exams. This brought him to the attention of Godfrey Hilton Thomson at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1935, William joined the Moray House College of Education there. He took part in the construction and standardisation of the Moray House Tests, which were used throughout the UK for school selection.

During the Second World War he was Managing Chemist, Guncotton, TNT and Tetryl sections at HM Factory Bishopton. In 1942 he became Managing Chemist, Cordite Section at HM Factory Wrexham.

After the War he returned to Edinburgh to become a Lecturer and Reader in Experimental Education, publishing widely. Between 1948 and 1952 he gave lectures at Homerton College in Cambridge to staff of Local Education Authorities, promoted by the Ministry of Education. In December 1952 he undertook a lecture tour in Columbo, Kandy and Jaffna in Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) under the auspices of the British Council. He retired in 1953. Emmett describes this as being dismissed from his university appointment by Professor J G Pilley. 

In 1954, following his retirement, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Sir Godfrey H ThomsonAlexander AitkenIvor Malcolm Haddon Etherington and Derrick Lawley. Between 1955 and 1957 he was on the staff at Ferranti Ltd at Crewe Toll, Edinburgh, as a technical writer. 

In 1955, aged 68, he married Margarete Annelisa Hartmann (born 20/12/1908) in Dusseldorf. They lived at Redford Crescent in Edinburgh. They had no children. In February 1958 they visited Australia.

William died on 5 January 1985, aged 97.

Post-Script to Steve’s excellent biography, written by Laura Noakes

In 2021, one of William’s family members kindly shared with The Devil’s Porridge Museum some photos and documents, including his unpublished memoir, which gives us a valuable insight into W G Emmett’s character. In addition to his stories from his time at Gretna racing through the Scottish countryside on his bike, he also wrote up some facts about various members of his family. In describing himself he wrote: “at 88 finds he has on the whole left undone those things that he ought to have done and done those things which he ought not to have done, differing little from others. But he can still laugh at himself and things in general.” He wrote of his wife: “lucky to have a large garden and a nice husband”!

W G Emmett pictured in his office at Gretna.

Also shared with us are these fantastic photos, which appear to be much more candid than many of the photos we have in our collection, and look like they were taken at HM Factory Gretna. Appearing in these photos are W G Emmett, and two of his colleagues, G Bately Godwin and Egerton Sayers.

G B Godwin, pictured in Jan 1919

Egerton Sayer, pictured in 1919

Edward George Voss Passport photograph.

Edward George Voss: Travels in Mexico and the North West Frontier

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 Stuart writes about his research into Edward George Voss.

When research began into the munitions factory at Gretna an intriguing reference to an Edward George Voss was noted in the works magazine, Mossband Farewell. Voss worked at the section as an analytical chemist but was also connected to the Mexican Eagle Oil Company with a forwarding address in Tampico, Mexico. So who was Mr Voss and what had brought him from Mexico’s dry season to Southern Scotland in the depth of winter? The story, like many others, is complicated.

Edward George Voss was brought up for the most part in Melcombe Regis close to Weymouth on the Dorset coast. In 1899 he left Weymouth College to take a place at the University of London where he studied Experimental Physics. On 8 April 1905 he married Ida Julia Broad and later that same year he took a job lecturing at the General Engineering College, London. The couple lived in Wandsworth for the next four years until Ida died suddenly on 18 August 1909. Edward Voss, however, remarried within a few months; this was to Mona Willingham Richardson. She was well known in Buckinghamshire village of Amersham as one of the ‘Richardson sisters’.

The Richardson Sisters left to right Mona, Josephine and Caroline pictured on the grounds of Tithe Barn

Alison Bailey writing on the sisters for the Amersham Museum web-site described how they were granddaughters of the artic explorer Sir John Richardson. The eldest Josephine, known as ‘Joey’ was an academic and ran a school at Great College Street in Westminster. Caroline or ‘Car’ for short, taught at her sister Josephine’s school, but was also an established painter in watercolour. Mona’s vocation was less glamorous as a sanitary inspector in London’s Chelsea district. Alison Bailey recounts the family story that while the sisters were touring in the Alps, Mona announced that she was going to climb a mountain she had just seen from the train window. Alighting at the next station Mona proceeded to ascend the mountain and it was at the summit that she met Edward Voss.

Mona Richardson’s picture from her Canadian Passport, she returned to the UK in 1916

They were married on 30 December 1909 and the following year had a daughter, Elizabeth Willingham Voss, born on 18 November 1910. Edward Voss seemed to have a restless nature and was taken with the idea of farming in Canada. During the late 1900s and early 1910s adverts sponsored by the Canadian Government appeared in the UK press calling for ‘Men to till the Soil’. An article titled ‘Farming in Canada’, published in early 1912 discussed the ‘range of climatic conditions and agricultural possibilities’, in a bid to encourage new settlers. In 1911 Edward traveled to Baynes, British Columbia to establish their settlement while Mona and Elizabeth remained in Amersham with Joey and Car. The following year the Voss family travelled to Canada at the peak of what was termed the ‘third wave’ of immigration into the country. By 1913 however the farming project had been abandoned and the Voss family moved on to Alberta, Canada. The couple’s second child John was born in Calgary in 1915, while Edward did numerous jobs including prospecting and work as an analytical chemist. A year later he saw a new call to work abroad, this time for the Eagle Oil Company in the Gulf of Mexico.

Canadian government sponsored promotion for inward migration 1898

The Mexican Eagle Oil Company was founded by Weetman Pearson in 1909 and was based around the coastal port of Tampico. Operating in Mexico at this time was particularly difficult especially after the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910. In one instance a minor incident involving Mexican revolutionaries and US sailors, escalated into a breakdown of diplomatic relations and the landing of US troops in Tampico during April 1914. During the spring of 1916 the battleship Kentucky and gun boat Wheeling was sent into the area in response to the activity of revolutionary groups close to Tampico. US troops headed by General John Pershing, also entered the country in response to an attack on Columbus New Mexico, by the revolutionary leader Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

The Tampico oil refinery, over a thousand people worked there and was still under construction when Edward Voss arrived in 1916

It is not clear why Edward Voss should want to travel to such a volatile region but he arrived in the summer of 1916 and worked on the first of two new extensions to the Tampico oil refinery. Voss was taken on as refinery supervisor and billeted in temporary accommodation within the refinery grounds. The majority of the workers came from the US or overseas, with only a small percentage of the total work force drawn from the indigenous population. Author Jack London, described some of the workers that had arrived in Tampico for a column published in Colliers Magazine in June 1914:


The atmosphere was of the West, of the frontier, of the mining camp. I was more nearly reminded of the men of the Klondike than of anything else. In truth, within an hour I had encountered a dozen sourdoughs. Two of them I had known in the old days in Alaska. Said one of whom I had partnered seventeen years before in Dawson City: “Jack this ain’t no Klondike.”

With the environment in Mexico continually unstable, Weetman Pearson was keen to sell up and leave, however, the UK government stepped in and imposed restrictions preventing Pearson from transferring ownership for the duration of the war. The situation became yet more complicated when a communiqué from the German foreign office to Heirch Von Eckardt, German Ambassador to Mexico on 17 January 1917. It proposed offering Mexico financial support and an alliance between the countries should the US enter the war. When this communiqué, known as the Zimmermann Telegram, became public the outrage caused in the US led to Congress voting on 6 April 1917 to declare war on Germany.

Edward George Voss with Mona and children John and Elizabeth in Canada 1915

With Edward’s prolonged stay in Mexico the decision was make for Mona to leave Canada with children and they arrived in Liverpool from Montreal on 17 November 1916. It seems likely that she returned to Amersham where both her sisters Jo and Carr were heavily involved with the Red Cross. Carr had qualified in First Aid at the British Red Cross Polytechnic in 1916 and worked as a nurse in various hospitals in the south east. Working parties and meetings on first aid practice were also held at the Tithe Barn. With the US entering the war Edward Voss, it seems, was attempted to join the US military and a draft card was registered in New Orleans. Eagle, however, stepped with a posting to Gretna to avoid Edward doing military service as well as retaining their employee.

Edward George Voss US draft registration card filed in New Orleans Louisiana 12 September 1917

There is no record of Edward’s journey to Scotland but his family joined him in Gretna and they lived at 19 Victory Avenue. Victory Avenue was a common address for the factories chemists, Edward worked for the most part at the Mossband section. His stay at Gretna was a for about 10 months until August of 1918 when he gained leave to return to work at Eagle Oil, perhaps on a temporary basis. On 3 August 1918 Voss left Liverpool for New York and a connection to Tampico. He never had the chance to return to Gretna, however, as the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918. By the autumn moves were also made to sell Eagle Oil to Royal Dutch Shell and the sale went through on 2 April 1919. Edward continued to work for the new subsidiary for the next 18 months but returned to England on 29 November 1920.

Gretna Township where the Voss family stayed from late autumn 1917 to early summer 1918

The Voss family settled at Ridgecroft on 46 Kings Road in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire. Mona and Edward continued to travel with Edward working in Canada and Burma while Elizabeth and John were sent to boarding school and often holidayed at Chesham Bois with Joey and Car. Elizabeth Voss was drawn to music buying a treble recorder in 1930. By 1935 she had started The Amateur Musician magazine to promote ‘Music in the Home’ and in 1938 she married one of the paper’s regular contributors, the musician Edgar Hubert Hunt. Together they played a major role in the ‘recorder movement’ which saw the instrument being adopted as a mainstay of music education.

Edgar Hunt seated far left with Elizabeth Voss Hunt second from left during a home performance picture 1939

Edward Voss, continued to travel but it was at his Berkhamstead home that he died suddenly, on 13 March 1939. On Edward’s death Mona returned to Amersham living at Rose Cottage, Chesham Bois. Following the outbreak of war later in 1939 the cottages were once again used for Red Cross activity. Car was commissioned by Bucks Archaeologists Society to produce paintings of buildings of historical and cultural interest at risk from damage or destruction. Josephine died at the end of the war in 1945 and Caroline in 1959. Mona continued to live at the cottages and died at Junipers, Bois Lane, Chesham Bois, on 25 June 1962, she was the last of the Richardson sisters.

Danger Building Officers at H.M. Factory Gretna.

Worker of the Week: Agnes Muir

By Collections blog

Worker of the Week is a weekly blogpost series which will highlight one of the workers at H.M. Gretna our volunteers have researched for The Miracle Workers Project. This is an exciting project that aims to centralise all of the 30,000 people who worked at Gretna during World War One. If you want to find out more, or if you’d like to get involved in the project, please email This week, volunteer Marilyn shares her research into Agnes Muir.

Agnes Cumming(s) Muir was born in Troon, Ayrshire, on 21st December 1889 , the eldest of seven children to William Muir and Andrina Murdoch Muir. Her birth registration tells us that William was 28, Andrina 27 and they lived at 30, Back Temple Hill, Troon.

Her father, William was born in 1861 in Borgue, Kirkudbrightshire and her mother Andrina in 1862 in Colvend, Dalbeattie, SW Scotland. They married at Colvend on 19th June 1888.

We have an early photograph of the proud young parents with Agnes on her mother’s knee.

Agnes pictured with her parents.

The 1891 census lists her father as ships carpenter and Agnes as the only child. There is evidence that she was named after her maternal grandmother who died in 1891.

A sister, Marian arrived in 1892, a brother James in 1894, a sister Jessie Wilson in 1895, another brother Robert in 1897 followed by another sister , Elizabeth Murdoch on 25th August 1899.

In 1899 7 year old Marian became ill with TB and died aged 9 on 19th June 1901. Her death registration and the 1901 census place the family at 19 Welbeck Crescent, Troon. Marian died of Phthisis pulmanato ( Tuberculosis) having suffered for two years . Marian’s name is on the family gravestone in Troon Cemetery ( where Agnes’s would be added a few years later.

Having lost a daughter in 1901 and her father in 1900, 39 year old Andrina gave birth to a seventh child, William in 1902 and sadly died the same year. It is unclear whether the birth was a contributory cause of her death.

The loss of their mother left Agnes the eldest daughter at 13 and it is difficult to find any evidence of her activities and life between this point and 1911.

The 1911 census tells us that she was a boarder at 25 Kelvenhaugh Street, Glasgow . She was the only female in the household other than the landlady. The landlady’s three sons and a male 51 year old cousin made up the family members. The male boarders comprised of a police constable with Glasgow Police, an apprentice marine engineer and a blacksmith working at a shipping company.

Agnes now aged 22 was a typist with a law firm. We can assume that some time in the previous few years she had studied or had some sort of training for this role.

For part of 1918, aged 29 , the electoral register tells us that she was still in Glasgow, lodging with the Stirling family at 195, Kent Grove, Kelvingrove, Glasgow.

Agnes Muir in uniform.

However, the RAF log in the National Archives informs us that on 7th October 1918 Agnes joined the Royal Air Force. Her service No. was 21839. We learn that she is 5’6” tall with grey eyes. The record also tells us that she was discharged on 18th April 1919. Her conduct “ most satisfactory”. The Royal Air Force at the time was newly formed ( Wikipedia).

This period coincides with Miss Muir photographed for the Mossband Farewell Magazine with the Danger Buildings staff – the only female in the photograph. It is not clear whether or not she was the clerical support for the Danger Building Officer team at HM Factory Gretna. Her name certainly did not merit inclusion in the list alongside the male members of the team at the time.

Agnes is the only woman pictured as being on the Danger Building staff.

Probably being at something of a loss after the war, she sailed from Liverpool to St John’s Newfoundland aged 29 on” SS Empress of France” on 19th December 1919. The incoming passenger list for Canada is indecipherable for Agnes’s entry.

We must assume she was in Canada for the whole of 1920 as we find her on an incoming passenger list , Montreal to Glasgow on “SS Tunisia” in 1921 en-route to 19 Welbeck Crescent Troon, arriving in Glasgow 4th June 1921. Her occupation is given as stenographer. The family had not moved house.

It is not clear but very likely that Agnes returned home through ill health. Sadly, she died on 7th November 1923 aged just 33. She died in Moffat which was renowned as a Spa town ( and we learn from her death registration that she had Chronic colitis and infective Arthritis. She had been staying at Woodbine Villa, Moffat.

She was buried in the family grave alongside her mother and sister Marion. Her father suffered this additional tragedy and died in St Andrews Drive, Glasgow in 1940.

The additional family tragedy that he did not have to endure was his grandson Scott’s ( son of daughter Jessie Oswald ) death in 1951 when it is reported that as a Guardsman out rehearsing in the heat he fell not his bayonet which pierced his jugular vein . He was 19 (

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