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The Great War Centenary - 1917

From Front Line to White Lund

Royal Visit to Lancaster and the Projectile Factory on Caton Road and National Filling Factory at White Lund, May 1917.

From the 19th May 1917 – Lancaster Guardian

The Royal Visit  -  King and Queen At Lancaster 
Inspection of Munition Works  -  Enthusiastic Receptions

Continuing their tour of the industrial centres of the North-Western Counties, the King and Queen paid a brief visit to Lancaster on Wednesday afternoon. The visit was not altogether of a public character, the object being an inspection of the great munition works which have been brought into existence in the neighbourhood during the last two years. Hence there was no public holiday, but the visit coincided with the tradesmen’s half-holiday, the schools were closed, and employers of labour readily gave their employees an opportunity of participating in the enthusiastic welcome accorded to the Royal visitors. There was a large number of visitors from the country and throughout the afternoon the streets presented busy scenes. The day was brilliantly fine, in the afternoon almost summer-like, and the main thoroughfares were lined with interested crowds of men, women and children, who cheered lustily as the Royal procession passed. There was no sign of the industrial unrest which had caused so much uneasiness for more than a week, and satisfaction was expressed on all sides at the fact that the engineers had returned to work prior to the visit. There were no civic functions and the decorations were, with few exceptions, confined to the thoroughfares along which the Royal cortege passed en route to the National Works. Market Street and Cheapside were a blaze of colour, there being hardly a shop without its display of flags. Union Jacks were used in most cases while the Royal Standard floated from the battlements of the ancient Castle, and at various points strings of banners were suspended across the streets. Traffic along the route followed by the procession was suspended shortly after three o’clock, admirable arrangements for the successful carrying out of the programme having been made by Chief Constable Harriss, in conjunction with Mr H P P Lane, (Chief Constable of the County) and Supt. Scott. In the Borough the ordinary Police Force had the assistance of about 130 special constables and also a detachment of military police; whilst in the County members of the constabulary also had the help of a large number of special constables. There was no friction, and everything passed off without a hitch, the visit being from first to last a complete success.

Arrival and Reception

The Royal train, by which their Majesties travelled from Manchester, was timed to arrive at Lancaster at 3.20 pm, and long before that hour crowds of people had assembled in the vicinity of the Castle Station; whilst on the platform of the station was grouped a privileged few, mostly those who had been selected for presentation to their Majesties, railway officials, etc. The train was punctual, and the King and Queen on alighting were received by Sir William Scott Barrett, Constable of the Castle, acting on behalf of the Lord Lieutenant (Lord Shuttleworth), who is ill. His Majesty wore the undress uniform of a field marshal of the British Army, while the Queen was attired in a costume of navy blue, with three-quarter length braided coat, and wore a toque trimmed with pink and maurve rose. Her Majesty wore a red Lancaster rose as a button-hole. The Constable of the Castle formally presented his daughter (Miss Constance Scott Barrett) and also the Mayor and Mayoress of Lancaster (Councillor and Mrs William Briggs), the Queen graciously accepting from the latter a handsome bouqet of red Lancaster roses (supplied by Mr Osborne). Other presentations were: The Town Clerk of Lancaster (Mr T Cann Hughes), Mr and Mrs W Garnett, Mr and Mrs P J Hibbart, Mr and Mrs H L Storey, Sir Harcourt E Clare, Mrs H P P Lane, Mrs Trubshaw (Preston) Colonel Cooper CMG (Preston), Mr C E Harriss (Chief Constable of Lancaster), the Mayor and Mayoress of Morecambe (Councillor and Mrs John Birkett), and the Mayor of Lancaster presented as representatives of Labour in the Borough, Councillor H Jemmison (President of the Trades and Labour Council) and Mr James Hodkinson, with whom their Majesties chatted regarding the work of the War Committees with which they are associated as representatives of Labour.

There was no demonstration on the platform of the Station, but when their Majesties emerged to take their seats in the waiting motor car a loud burst of cheering arose from the assembled crowd. Small flags, hats, and handkerchiefs were waved, and everywhere the greatest enthusiasm was manifested, the King and Queen both repeatedly bowing their acknowledgements of the reception accorded them. With Chief Constable as pilot, the Royal cortege proceeded by way of Meeting House Lane, Market Street, Cheapside, North Road, Parliament Street, and the new road, to The National Factory. All along the route on both sides was lined by loyal townspeople, who cheered lustily as the car passed. The employees of Messrs. Waring and Gillow were massed in front of the works, and sang a verse of the National Anthem, finishing with a hearty burst of cheering. The sloping field opposite the entrance to the works – now christened Tunrbull Park – proved a vantage ground for several hundred enthusiastic loyalists. In accordance with arrangements made by Chief Constable Harriss the children of the elementary schools were located here and had an excellent opportunity of witnessing at least past of the proceedings. Many of them carried small flags, which fluttered in the breeze, providing the most picturesque scene supplied by the visit.

The Projectile Works

Though the month of May can never be merry in war time, there was something in the balmy air which drove dull care away while the throng of loyal Lancastrians awaited the arrival of their King and Queen alongside the National Factory in Caton Road. The Deputy Chief Constable of the County (Captain Trubshaw) heralded the fine motor car containing their Majesties, whose approach to the works was the signal for an outburst of cheering, culminating in the singing of the National Anthem when the car stopped, and the King and his Consort alighted. The crowd in Turnbull Park, including many who had been on “nightshift” were most respectfully, and the special constables were really privileged spectators with little to do but look on. Many of them would have been on the golf course in “piping times of peace!”

The exterior of the works was spick and span with a liberal display of bunting.

In attendance upon the King and Queen were: Lady Ampthill (Lady in Waiting), Commander Sir Charles Cust, Lieutenant General Clive Wigram, Earl Cromer; Sir W Scott Barrett, Bart (Constable of the Castle), Colonel Cooper, The Mayor and Mayoress of Lancaster ( Councillor and Mrs William Briggs); and ______ of representatives of Messrs. Vickers _______. Their Majesties were received by Sir Trevor Dawson, (deputy chairman of Vickers, Ltd. And Mrs James McKechnie, (director of Vickers, Ltd) who is specially responsible for their works in this district.

His Majesty quickly noticed in the entrance ex-Sergeant J Browning wearing the Afghan and long service medals for honourable association with the King’s Own. He is an uncle of Lieutenant Leach VC and has lost two sons and a brother in law in the war, while two other sons have been wounded.

Mr Max R Lawrence, superintendent of the factory, and Captain Waker, representative of the Ministry of Munitions, were presented, and a series of presentations of ladies and gentlemen followed in the Superintendent’s office, in the order:-
Mrs Max R Lawrence; Mrs W Wilson, Meadowside, (wife of the accountant); Mrs J P Wardropper (wife of the manager), Mrs Walker, Mr W Wilson (accountant), Mr J P Wardropper (works manager), Mr J Turnbull (constructional engineer, Barrow-in-Furness), Mr W T Peek (master of works on behalf of the Ministry of Munitions), Mr W T Williams (district inspector of munitions area), Miss L Square (manageress), Miss K O’Connell (matron), Mr L Barker (night manager).

Miss Josn Lawrence, the sweet ten years old daughter of the Superintendent, dressed in white muslin, beautifully embroidered, and with pink sash, and a hat trimmed with pink daises, stepped forward and presented the Queen with a bouquet of red carnations (supplied by Mr Osborne), with composure reciting the greeting “Welcome to your Majesty. This is from the forewomen and charge hands.” Her Majesty generously accepted the gift, and the perambulation of the huge works followed.

It is interesting to note that the National Projectile Factory is one of the largest in the kingdom. Messrs. Vickers, Limited, were approached in the summer of 1915 to undertake the erection, equipment and control of this particular factory and the site was chosen and the arrangements of building made with special regard to facility in transport. It was also determined thus early to do everything from the mechanical point of view in order that women labour should be utilised to the fullest extent even though large shells were to be manufactured. This advantage accrued from the admirable character of the crane and other handling appliances. It was in early autumn of 1915 that farm land was taken over, the ground cleared, deep and well-secured foundations made to carry the heavy machinery, and the immense and well arranged machine shops were erected. A record was established. Within six months there began a flow of “supplies” and this has been maintained with increasing volume. The remarkable performance of building such a factory in such a short time will be better appreciated when it is stated that the total area of the factory is over 37 acres, and that more than one third of this is covered by buildings. Thousands of tons of steel were required for the buildings. There are eleven acres of glass roofing and sides, 2,225,000 bricks were utilised for part walls and part foundations in addition to 23,000 tons of ballast and sand for concrete work.

The great wide bays of which the factory is composed, if built end to end would stretch two miles. Some of the bays are 925 feet long. The works are self contained in this respect that the whole of the power required is generated in a new power station. The total power of the machinery installed in this section is about 6,000 h.p., and is utilised for generating electricity for running machinery and lighting the factory, pressure water for the large hydraulic presses required in forging the “goods”, and air pressure for other purposes. Of the large army of workers, three quarters are females, and every convenience has been arranged in the way of canteens and Rest rooms for the welfare not only for the women, but for the men workers.

Proceeding down the steps, the Royal visitors first inspected the 6 inch bay, and several more officials were presented while employees struck up the National Anthem. The presentation at this and later stages included the following members of staff:-

Mr I Waterhouse, superintendent 6 inch department; Mr T Balmanno, chief foreman 6 inch department; Mr A Varley, night foreman 6 inch department; Miss J Collier, head forewoman; Mrs Coulthard, head forewoman; Mr I Fagan, chief time keeper, Inspector Eyres, head of works police; Mr F Crozier, chief wages clerk; Mr J I Emery, works engineer; Mr T Carson and Mr E L Johnson, head foremen, press house; Mr H Johnson, manager 60 pounder department; Mr J Janeway and Mr R Wilson, head foreman 60 pounder department; Mr J Dempster, head foreman hydraulic department; Misses A Case and V Dunmall, forewomen; Mr D H Emby, manager tool room; Mr P Schofield, head foreman tool room; Mr J McLarty chief ratefixer; Mr Wheatbread, Ministry inspector; Miss Johnson and Mrs Wright, chief forewomen inspection department; Mr J S Ferguson and Mr J S Dunn, chief inspectors; Mr Duncan Newton, labour bureau; Mr P W Leishman, manager 9.2 department; Mr Hutchinson and Mr J Craig, head foreman 9.2 department; Mr J Howie, foreman electrician; Mr J Leslie, chief power station; Mr Hawkby, cashier; Mr William Kimberley, foreman plumber; Mr Nixon, foreman builder; Mr H McKenkie, foreman joiner; Mr C Newton, foreman over millwrights; Mr C Drummond, foreman labourer; Mr J Jackson, traffic manager; Mr J Jacques, outside superviser; Mr J Brockbank, head storekeeper; Mr J w Fittaway, chief of purchase department; Miss P Thistlewaite, forewoman over cleaners.

His Majesty entered into conversation with ex-Inspector Lynn, of the Lancashire Constabulary, who is one of the works police, and has 43 years service. Flags were hanging from various points of vantage in the huge bays, and frequently groups of girls were ready with bannerettes to give vent to their loyal feelings. One modest young lady had written on a time board “God Bless our Queen”. The King inquired from the forewomen whether they like their work and they answered in the affirmative. Another bright girl, who expected their Majesties to pass without noticing her as she was wearing clogs, was surprised to hear the Queen ask “I see you wear clogs. How do you like them?” “Oh they’re alright,” replied the Lancashire lass. “Are they comfortable?” asked the Queen, “Well yes, they are all right” was the qualifying answer. “Do you take long walks in them?” finally inquired her Majesty. “Oh, plenty far enough” was the honest answer, and the girl meaning the distance she had to cover to and from her work. The King and Queen both enjoyed the frankness of the girl.

When the foreman and forewomen were presented, His Majesty was always ready with a question about the special process, which helped to put them at ease.

A feature of the visit was the inspection of the Press house, where 6 inch shells were being forged. The 60 pounder bay, the hydraulic department, the tool room, 9.2 department were in turn the objects of interest – the girls turning copper bands with dexterity. The huge travelling cranes lifted their burdens with ease, and in the stockyards transporters were at work loading and unloading to and from wagons.

On the left there was a diversion, which reminded their Majesties that many men broken in the War are yet striving to do their bit by sending on the shells, which mean so much to the men in the front trenches – especially when they have to go over the top. No fewer than 233 men were drawn up in two columns, and between the ranks the King and Queen walked. His Majesty kept his eye on the badges, and it revealed his kindly feelings towards the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment when he detected the badge. Corporal Philips, who had served with the second battalion in India, and was wounded at Ypres, was the first to get a word of encouragement. “I see you belonged to the King’s Own?” said the King. “Yes, and proud of it, too,” replied the man. His Majesty asked how he liked his work and he answered “It’s all right.” Another local hero noticed was Sergeant R N Jackson, who was wearing the Military Medal he earned by bravery in the field in the Second Battle of Ypres two years ago when so many gallant Lancastrians made the supreme sacrifice. His Majesty asked him which battalion he fought with and seemed gratified to know that a Territorial had done so well in resisting such a fierce Hun attack.

He commended several for their devotion to duty, and told others how he admired the units to which they had served. One hero with his arm still in a sling was the recipient of words of sympathy and praise from the Queen, who hoped he might have strength given him to carry on the work so which he is adapting himself. Sapper Smith Royal Engineers, whose right eye was rendered useless during the fighting on the Ypres salient last August, received a cheery word from the King, and others were similarly greeted. Time was fleeing and their Majesties had to pass through the shops quickly to get a glimpse of the canteens and dining rooms. Here the Queen showed a kindly interest in the welfare of the girls by inquiring as to how they partook of their meals. Miss F Thistlethwaite (the forewoman) told her that thousands received meals per day. The tables were adorned with lilies and daffodils, and sample dishes were shown to her Majesty, who was informed that a plate of meat cost 7d, sweets 2d, a round of toast a penny, and a glass of milk or aerated water costs two pence. Queen Mary remarked “How beautifully clean everything is – a tribute to the waitresses, which made their complexions like dairymaids. Their Majesties signed the visitors’ book, and before their departure submitted to the ubiquitous photographer for cinematograph purposes.

At The Filling Factory

Before the completion of the inspection of the Factory the employees ceased work for the day and flocked out into the new road, which at places was densely crowded by an excited, cheering throng, many of them in khaki overalls. When the Royal visitors emerged from the principal gateway, the Works Band played the National Anthem, and the first verse was sung and repeated by the large concourse of people before the cortege moved away, the singing being followed by enthusiastic cheering. Skerton Bridge was thickly lined on both sides by local townspeople, and even along Morecambe Road and through Torrisholme, little groups of people on the road sides voiced their enthusiasm by hearty cheers and the waving of flags. Torrisholme was gay with flags and bunting, and from this point to the entrance to the filling factory vari-coloured streamers were hung across the road at frequent intervals, and the cheering for a long distance was almost continuous. Near the entrance to the Works the Morecambe elementary school children were massed, and, under the conductorship of Mr M Stoddart, sang the National Anthem. Everywhere there were cheering crowds. Inside the large gates near the offices a place had been found for the wounded soldiers from the Auxiliary Hospital at Morecambe, to whom his Majesty addressed a cheery greeting. The executive buildings of this factory cover a floor area of one million square feet, the total are with the boundaries being 400 acres. There are quite 150 buildings, many of them large and substantial, yet the work of filling the shells was in full operation within seven months after possession of the site was obtained. Messrs Vickers were responsible for the planning of the factory, which, both in its equipment and in the care taken of the health of the workers, stands as a model for all similar undertakings. The buildings are arranged in sequence, so that the material enters at one and passes from building to building, through mechanical conveyors, never coming into the open air, and arrives at the further end of the series a complete shell, ready for the Front.

Manifestations of loyalty were begun at the gates, by hosts of girls, clad in blue or khaki overalls, who thronged every avenue and open space, and rushed from one coign of vantage to another, as the Royal party passed along. Their enthusiastic cheering was augmented by syrens of locomotives, and here and there groups of girls spontaneously sang stanzas of the National Anthem. “Are we downhearted?” queried one khaki clad maiden, the reply coming in a vociferous “No” from a hundred voices, followed by renewed cheering. The King and Queen, passing through the series of buildings, saw the powder dried, crushed, and rammed into the shell by the little, active girls, inspected the final application of hydraulic power in the explosive-proof rooms, and witnessed also the stencilling on the completed shell, which seems to have a literature of its own in explaining its contents to the gunners at the Front. The painting department is an enormous building, and their Majesties were much impressed with the immense rate at which the shells were painted. One girl made a record by painting 54 in one hour, this being partly due to the cleverness of the operator and partly to the form of brush used. Attention was drawn to two accessories, the Ambulance Room and the Laundry. In the latter the uniforms of the workers are twice weekly washed, pressed and subjected to fire-resisting mechanical treatment. There are, of course, extensive canteens for men and women; and their Majesties were struck with another phase of the situation. The spaces between all the buildings is being farmed, under a market garden system, for the supply of food material for the district, a total area of 100 acres being thus brought under cultivation.

During the tour of the Filling Factory, the following presentations were made: Mr R A Stokes, general manager; Mr J H Field, works manager; Mr C E Butler, accountant; Mr D Mitchell, contractor; Mr M H Weeks, chemist, Vickers, Barrow; Mr J McI Ford, Vickers, Barrow; Mrs Stokes, Mrs Field, Mrs Butler, Lieutenant Gunter Smith, Lieutenant A E Maule; Lieutenant Broadhurst; Lieutenant Hope; Mr B Comyn, night manager; Mr J Birr, Mr G Ferguson, Mr A E Hemsworth, Mr R W Nicholson, Mr E Anthony, assistant managers; Lieutenant A R V Steele, chemist; Superintendent W G Strangroom; Mr Baxter, constructional manager; Major Burton, Labour Battalion; Major Dewhurst, Military Guard. A bouquet of pink carnations was presented to the Queen by the Lady Superintendent of the Factory.

The King and Queen about to have tea in one of the canteens, White Lund Munitions Works.

Their Majesties were subsequently entertained to tea in one of the canteens, which had been exquisitely fitted up, and florally decorated by Mr Waters, manager of Messrs. Shand and Sons nurseries. In the reception room a beautiful scheme had been carried out with pink Chatenay roses, pink carnations and foliage and flowering plants; whilst the tea room was decorated with roses, carnations, lilium, Harrisii, ferns, and groups of palms and flowering plants. The Queen’s retiring room was adorned with a large bowl of pink carnations; and vases of red Richmond roses were place in the King’s retiring room. Before leaving the factory a souvenir of the visit in the shape of a specially constructed silver-plated shell, was presented to the King by whom it was graciously accepted.

To Glasson Dock

There was tumultuous cheering by the employees as their Majesties left the works, whilst the crowds which lined the road for more than a mile outside the factory were most enthusiastic in their loyal demonstrations. The Royal Party returned to Lancaster by way of Morecambe Road, across Skerton Bridge, where there was again a large concourse of people, and thence along Parliament Street, Rosemary Lane, Great John Street, Thurnham Street and Ashton Road to Glasson Dock, where their Majesties rejoined the Royal train. Their progress through the town was marked by loyal manifestations all along the route, the streets being lined with spectators, who cheered vociferously. Passing the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, which the King and Queen opened when Duke and Duchess of York in March 1896, the cars slowed down, and the nurses and patients, who were assembled on the balconies saluted the Royal occupants with hearty cheers. At various points along the route groups of country people assembled and greeted the Royal visitors; whilst at Glasson the villagers were most enthusiastic in their demonstrations.

Their Majesties spent the night in the Royal train, which had been shunted to the terminals of the Glasson Dock branch of the London and North Western line. They expressed delight as the exquisite views obtainable across the Bay, of the Fylde district, and of course of the river Lune. On Thursday morning the train left Glasson punctually at 8.45 and after a few minutes’ delay at the Castle Station, proceeded direct to Barrow in continuation of the Royal Tour.


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