Disaster at Chilwell Shell Plant
The carnage of the WWI trenches inevitably was not without its price. In January 1917 London witnessed the massive explosion that destroyed the Silvertown TNT plant , killing 73 people. A year and a half later there was an even greater tragedy at the Chilwell Shell Filling Plant in Nottinghamshire.
Early in WWI it was evident Britain needed a new shell filling plant. Viscount Chetwynd was tasked with finding a suitable location, designing the factory, and equipping it. He selected Chilwell between Beeston and Long Eaton as the location, chosen for the large workforce available locally, the surrounding hills offering some protection for surrounding settlements and privacy for the plant.
A little after 6pm on July 1 an explosion ripped through part of the works, eight tons of TNT detonating. Depending on the source 134 or 137 died, with a further 250 injured. Chetwynd was convinced it was caused by a saboteur whom he named. Alternatively the pressure of ever-increasing production rates may have precipitated an accident.
Amazingly Chilwell reopened the following day. It made more than 19 million shells before its closure in 1919, half of all large calibre shells used by British forces in WWI.
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