A Day In The Life Of A WWI Munitions Worker

Following on from our recent post about munitionettes, as well as a talk by academic Jenny Roberts at our The Orange Lilies Community History Event in Brighton, The Imperial War Museum has shared some early film footage of a day in the life of a munitions worker. Although it’s not a Brighton film, it’s still interesting to see the day unfold.

Of all the roles women took on during the First World War their work in munitions factories was probably the most vital. Without the bullets and shells they produced the British Army couldn’t have carried on fighting.

Watch this archive film, A Day In The Life Of A Munitions Worker, which was made in 1917 at the Chilwell Arms Factory in Nottinghamshire. The clips show some of the tasks a female munitions worker would have had to do while working in the factories. The film also shows the workers having a basic medical inspection. It was in the factory owner’s interest to ensure their workforce remained healthy. However, working in the factories could be unpleasant, uncomfortable and often very dangerous.

The female workers, nicknamed ‘munitionettes’, had limited protection against the toxic chemicals they had to use. Over 200 women lost their lives through accidents, explosions, or poisoning from handling chemical explosives.

‘Munitionettes’ were only employed during the war. The government negotiated with the trade unions to ensure that when the war ended the women would leave and their jobs would once again be filled by men.

The full 11 min film is here: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060023048

A  short film about Vickers munitions can also be viewed here: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060022898

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