The Devil’s Porridge Museum tells the story of HM Factory Gretna, the largest cordite factory in the world during WW1. 30,000 people worked there during the war, making munitions for the war effort. Unfortunately, though, employment records don’t appear to have survived, and so the museum is largely dependent on newspaper records and tips from the general public and employees’ families to piece together the lives of these munitions workers. In 2021, thanks to generous funding from the Dumfries and Galloway Coastal Communities project, the museum embarked on an ambitious new research project to collate as many Gretna workers as possible. A team of dedicated volunteers began to systematically research the lives of people who worked at Gretna, and along the way uncovered some fascinating untold histories.

A core goal of The Devil’s Porridge Museum from its establishment has been to facilitate the research of WW1 munitions workers for everyone–from academics to family history enthusiasts. Whilst WW1 has been extensively researched, we feel that the lives and hardships of munitions workers on the Home Front is often overlooked–both in popular history and in academia. One reason for this is the lack of records. This project seeks to go some way to alleviating that. This database is, we believe, the very first of WW1 munitions workers to be available publicly, and serves both as a lasting legacy for this project and as a knowledge base for those researching WW1 munition workers.

It is important to mention that this database is a work in progress. We have barely scratched the surface of the total of 30,000 workers at HM Factory Gretna, and given the scarcity and disjointed nature of the sources, it is safe to assume that this database will never be fully representative. This database is continually being added to as research comes in. If you know of anyone who worked at HM Factory Gretna that isn’t on this database, if you notice any errors in database entries, or wish for photos and information to be taken down, please email laura@devilsporridge.org.uk. The huge amount of data on this database has been compiled by volunteers, and although we have striven to be accurate, mistakes inevitably happen.

We have taken a wide-ranging definition of the term ‘worker’ for the purpose of this project, ranging from chemists, engineers, and munitions workers, who worked within the cordite making process, to welfare officers, women police, township workers, and the navvies, who built the townships of Gretna and Eastriggs that housed the munitions workers. This is because the factory required all of these myriad of workers in order to function.

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