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Eastriggs Commonwealth Week 2022.

By Events

Eastriggs the Commonwealth Village is coming together to celebrate Commonwealth Week from March 12th to March 19th 2022. A number of local organisations are coming together to put on an impressive array of activities over that period. Read more about all the events that will be happening below.


Saturday 12th March

Tractor Pull Challenge

10am – 12 noon and 2.00pm – 3.30pm

A Tractor Pull Challenge sponsered by SJ Barbers and Touch of Beauty will be happening at The Devil’s Porridge Museum. Why not come  and see how far you can pull it? There’s a £25 cash prize for both Ladies and Gents challenges.

Commonwealth Entertainment

7:30pm – 12:30am

At Eastriggs Social Club, featuring ‘Back2Back’ and Status Quo tribute Peter Kelly. Tickets £8 from the Club or The Devil’s Porridge Museum. There will be prizes for the best Commonwealth fancy dress!


Sunday 13th March

The Time Bandits

10am – 4pm

Learn all about life in World War One with living history performers The Time Bandits at The Devil’s Porridge Museum.

Booking online to visit the Museum is essential to avoid disappointment when we are busy. You can book your visit to the museum here:


Monday 14th March

Meet the Curator

6pm – 8pm

There will be a  FREE open evening at The Devil’s Porridge Museum where you can meet Emma Gilliland, the new Curator, and enjoy tastes of the Commonwealth.


Wednesday 16th March

Look out for MyPod Youth Bus!


Friday 18th March


Starts 7pm at The Wayside Inn.

Your host for the evening is Harry H. Could you be the Eastriggs Commonwealth Champion? Followed by traditional karaoke – who will be voted the best male and female singers? £60 in prizes.


Saturday 19th March

Eastriggs Historic Commonwealth Games.

12 noon – 4pm

Free admission and fun for all the family at Melbourn park!

Two Australian flags with the words "Australia Day."

The Australian contribution to HM Factory Gretna

By Collections blog

HM Factory Gretna was the greatest munitions factory on earth in World War One.  It employed 30,000 people (12,000 of them women).  It was a worldwide effort as talent was drawn from across the Empire.

Eastriggs, the location of The Devil’s Porridge Museum, is now known as ‘The Commonwealth Village’ because its place names include Singapore Road, The Rand, Delhi Road and Vancouver Road to name but a few.  The overseas workers left their mark in their contribution to the war effort and in the place names they left behind.

For Australia Day 2020, we thought we would share some information about the Australians we know about who worked in the Factory in World War One (we don’t know the names of all the Factory workers and we haven’t included the name of every Australian we know of who worked there either).


James Chalmers Hood c.1895-1957

c.1895 James was born in Oban, Scotland.  He was educated at Perth Technical College.

He became a cadet at the Explosives and Analytical Branch of the Mines Department in Western Australia.

In 1914 he qualified as an analyst and then came to HM Factory Gretna.

Between 1917 and 1919 he worked at HM Factory Sutton Oak.  This factory near Liverpool specialised in the production of poison gas (photographed below).

sutton oak

James then went on to work at Government Chemical Laboratories.  First as a chemist, then senior chemist, acting supervising chemist, deputy government analyst from 1946 and director of laboratories from 1955.

Alfred James Occleshaw


19th September 1888: Alfred was born in Melbourne.  He was educated at a working man’s college where he achieved a Diploma in Chemistry.

From 1904 to 1916 Alfred worked for the Mount Lyell Chemical Company (photographed below).

mount lyell

Between 1916 and 1918 he was involved in operative training and explosive manufacture at HM Factory Gretna.

In 1919 Alfred went to work for Chance and Hunt, an alkali company in Birmingham.

He returned to Australia in 1920 to work for the Mount Lyell Company research group.

Between 1921 and 1923 Alfred was a buyer for the Electrolytic Zinc Company, Hobart.

In 1923 he retired, and lived out his life in Melbourne.

You can see some of the street names in Eastriggs on the map below.  The majority are places in the British Empire/Commonwealth.

In 1919, the following HM Factory Gretna staff left their work in Britain and gave their addresses as listed below:

B E Anderson

c/o Wischer & co

William Street




J R H Bartlett

c/o/ Dalgetty & Co.

15 Bent Street


New South Wales



W S Bradley


Francis Street


W Australia


S Hough

c/o Messrs Lever Brothers Ltd





N S W Hudson

c/o/ T J Darling Esq.





S Parsons

91 Morehead Street





A F Parkin

Born 1892 in Victoria

Lived at 24 the Ridge, Eastriggs during World War One and had two children there (Tom and Gretna who went on to become Gretna Weste, a famous Australian botanist, see:

Died 1971 in Tobago

In 1919, he gave his future address as:

Studley Avenue





G W R Powell

Gladstone Avenue





T M Steele

c/o C S R Co

O’Connell Street




G S Skuthorp

Bullfinch Proprietery


West Australia


L F N Stutterd





M B Welch

Boyle Street

Mosman Bay

NSW Australia


R G Walker

209 Ripon Street

South Ballarat




Operating Staff

S B Abbott

71 Sydney Road





N E Beaumont



F A Eastaugh, ARSM, FIC, AIMM

University Club





F F Field, AMSM

21 Landsdowne Street

East Melbourne




A F Gourley        Australia


E L P Griffiths, BSc, AIC

Chemist’s Branch

Dept of Agriculture





W J Kelly

32 M’Connell Street





J McE King


Ballast Pint Road





A J Marsden       Australia


A M Munro, MA, AIC, FCS

c/o Bank of Australasia



C W R Powell     Chemical Dept


C S R Coy



Danger Building Staff


A L Aspland, BSc

Lower Kalgan River


West Australia





Central laboratory staff H M Factory Gretna

James Carter Spensley

By Collections blog

Eastriggs (where The Devil’s Porridge Museum is based) is known as the Commonwealth Village.  The majority of its street names are derived from places in the Commonwealth (or Empire) such as Vancouver Road, Delhi Road, Singapore Road etc.  The township was built in World War One to house workers at HM Factory Gretna, the greatest munitions factory on earth at that time (the Museum tells the story of this factory and its 30,000 workers).  The workers came from around the world and they left their mark behind in their wartime contribution and in the place names of Eastriggs.  Here we feature one person from the Factory who worked here in World War One with Commonwealth connections.

James Carter Spensley


James was born in Gunnerside in North Yorkshire in 1886.  His family were Wesleyans and his father was the Headmaster of the school.  At some point in the 1890s, the family migrated to Knysna in South Africa.

James studied chemistry at the Transvaal University in Pretoria (pictured below) and then became a lecturer there.

transvaal college

He was wounded, fighting against a Boer rebellion which occurred in South Africa at the start of World War One.

In May 1917, James came to HM Factory Gretna and worked as a  chemist in the Central Laboratory.  This photograph below shows the Central Laboratory staff at the end of the War.  James may be in this picture.

central laboratory staff hm factory gretna

The main focus of his work was on solvent recovery problems and he delivered a talk to the Factory’s Scientific Society  on the subject.

In Spring 1918, an ‘urgent call’ came for chemists to go and work at another Factory.  James went and was badly injured while there.  It is probable that this Factory was at Avonmouth, near Bristol, where mustard gas was made.  James may have been gassed during production (we know of another chemist from HM Factory Gretna to whom this happened).

“The potential dangers of the task did not deter Mr Spensley from undertaking it, and he rendered much valuable service before he succumbed to the dangerous nature of his work and lay at Death’s door for many weeks.”

The death of James Carter Spensley

James returned to Gretna towards the end of 1918.  He had a mild attack of influenza in late 1918.  Sadly, he died on December 16th due to the weakness of his heart following his brush with death at another munitions factory.

His body was buried in the village of Gunnserside, North Yorkshire where his family had lived in before they emigrated to South Africa.  He is listed on the war memorial in that parish.

Photograph above shows his grave and below shows the village war memorial.

james carter spensley grave

gunnerside war memorial

He was clearly well liked and valued by his colleagues at HM Factory Gretna as these passages demonstrate:

“Widespread sorrow was caused shortly before the Christmas holidays by the news that Mr Spensley had passed away at the Gretna Works Hospital. 

As a result of his attractive personality and cheerful good nature he made a great many friends among the Factory Staff, and all keenly regretted that his young life should have been cut short in this quite unexpected way.”

gretna works hospital

“His death was indeed a great loss to Gretna, and the sadness of the event is only relieved by our pride in his fine record of war service. 

Exerting himself unsparingly, and never shirking difficulty or danger, he served his country valiantly to the end.”

All quotes from Dornock Farewell magazine (in the Museum’s archive).

The following books (available from the Museum’s online shop) may be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about HM Factory Gretna and the people who worked there in World War One:

The Devil’s Porridge Museum Guidebook

Lives of Ten Gretna Girls booklet

Photograph of War Memorial taken from:

Photograph of James Carters Spensley’s grave taken from:



The Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.

The life and death of Eric de Clermont

By Collections blog

Eastriggs (where The Devil’s Porridge Museum is based) is known as the Commonwealth Village.  The majority of its street names are derived from places in the Commonwealth (or Empire) such as Vancouver Road, Delhi Road, Singapore Road etc.  The township was built in World War One to house workers at HM Factory Gretna, the greatest munitions factory on earth at that time (the Museum tells the story of this factory and its 30,000 workers).  The workers came from around the world and they left their mark behind in their wartime contribution and in the place names of Eastriggs.  Here we feature one person from the Factory who worked here in World War One.

Eric de Clermont

Born: 1st November 1880

Died (in Gretna): 5th December 1918

Commonwealth connection: South Africa


eric de clermont

Eric’s experiences before World War One

1st November 1880 Eric was born in London.

1899 Eric entered King’s College, Cambridge.

1901 Eric appeared on Census return aged 20, he was listed as a student.  At that time, his family were living in Reigate.  His father, Otto (48) was listed as a Mechanical Engineer and his sister, Helen (22) as a School Teacher.  His cousin, Kenneth Heilgers (19) was also staying with them and he was recorded as an East India merchant on the census.

1902 Eric graduated from King’s College with a BA.

1903 Eric graduated from Camborne School of Mines, Cornwall with a  qualification in Ore Dressing for which he was awarded an Honours Grade Second Class.

Some time after 1903 Eric travelled to South Africa to work in mining.

1916 Eric returned to Britain.


Accidents and ill health meant that Eric couldn’t volunteer for the army.

He had been an enthusiastic rugby player, even captaining his team at King’s College Cambridge before an injury.

He lost his eye and contracted miner’s phthisis (a lung disease) whilst he was working in the South African mines.

In 1916, he was nominated for a Commission in a tunnelling company and promised he would be sent quickly to the Front but his injuries and ill health put a stop to that.

Eric’s War work

Eric de Clermont joined the Ministry of Munitions and after his preliminary training at Pitsea near Basildon, he came to HM Factory Gretna in July 1916.

For more information on Pitsea, see:

He seems to have been a well known and well liked person as these quotes demonstrate.

“He had a schoolboy’s enthusiasm for everything he undertook, and a schoolboy’s instinct of playing the game.”

“He was full of enthusiasm for his new task, and was one of the first to take over a shift; he soon became a Range Officer, and finally was appointed a Sub-section Officer.”

“He worked his Sub-section up to a pitch of the highest efficiency, and was always devising schemes for increasing output and reducing costs; this he was enabled to do by real hard work, and by the respect and confidence of his subordinates, which he won without difficulty.”

The Death of Eric de Clermont

On November 25th 1918, Eric was taken ill with influenza (the Spanish Flu).  He had to be prevented (by force) from going to work at the Factory.

He was said to have been full of high spirits when he entered the influenza hospital.

But after a few days, pneumonia began to develop and he became quieter and finally passed away on December 5th 1918 aged 38.

He was buried at Rigg Cemetery on December 7th 1918.

Eric’s death “…cast a dark shadow over the closing days of the Factory, for with his passing we had lost a man who had gained our affection as colleague and friend.  He was an outstanding personality on the Cordite Section, and it is probable that but few of the thousands on the area did not know him, his ingenuous, engaging disposition, and the hundred and one little episodes associated with his name.” 

victory avenue

Photograph above: shows Victory Avenue, Gretna which was Eric’s address when he died

“His old tweed jacket; his beatific smile when one of his many little tricks was found out; his intense local patriotism…his garden, which he would weed on a rainy day sitting on a camp-stool under an umbrella – all these, together with the many episodes remembered by those who lived with at Staff-Quarters, Sarkbridge, and at 96 Victory Avenue, remain and endear him to us.”

All quotes from Mossband Farewell magazine (in the Museum’s archive).

To find out more about Eastriggs in World War One a map has been produced:

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