, was a large World War II Royal Ordnance Factory
Royal Ordnance Factories was the collective name of the UK government's munitions factories in and after World War II. Until privatisation in 1987 they were the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply and later the Ministry of Defence....
filling munitions. It was based in the rural area of Kirkby
Kirkby is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley in the metropolitan county of Merseyside in England. The town was developed from the 1950s through 1970s as a means to house the overspill of Liverpool. It is situated roughly north of Huyton, the administrative HQ of the borough and about...
Merseyside is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 1,365,900. It encompasses the metropolitan area centred on both banks of the lower reaches of the Mersey Estuary, and comprises five metropolitan boroughs: Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, and the city of Liverpool...
in order to reduce the potential damage from explosions; and produced munitions from September 1940 to March 1946.
Original planning for the site began at Royal Arsenal
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, originally known as the Woolwich Warren, carried out armaments manufacture, ammunition proofing and explosives research for the British armed forces. It was sited on the south bank of the River Thames in Woolwich in south-east London, England.-Early history:The Warren...
Woolwich is a district in south London, England, located in the London Borough of Greenwich. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.Woolwich formed part of Kent until 1889 when the County of London was created...
, with Sir Alex Gibson acting as consultant and Holloway Brothers the contractors. When completed the factory consisted of more than 1,000 buildings, 18 miles (29 km) of roads and 23 miles (37 km) of railway lines along with a station and had cost £8,500,000. (£ inflation adjusted) As a way to minimise the risk of damage in the event of an explosion taking place the buildings were widely spaced and some were mounded up to the eaves.
In July 1940 Lawrence Gale from the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, was appointed the Superintendent, taking 9 staff with him and when the first shells rolled off the assembly line in September 1940 there were only between 50 and 100 employees. By the summer of 1941 this had risen to 10,000 before rising to a peak of around 23,000 employees, most of whom were women. Medical treatment rooms were built onsite in order to cater to such a large workforce. When the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich was bombed, it had to be closed down and many workers and a large amount of material were transferred to ROF Kirkby. In order to house these employees 200 houses for key workers were built in the area and a YWCA
The YWCA USA is the United States branch of a women's membership movement that strives to create opportunities for women's growth, leadership and power in order to attain a common vision—to eliminate racism and empower women. The YWCA is a non-profit organization, the first of which was founded in...
hostel was built to house 1000 women. The factory employed a three shift system so that production was continuous, combining with the transport system so that as it dropped off one shift of employees it would take home another shift.
The ROF was eventually closed in March 1946, having been designated a War Duration Only
ROF and it had produced around ten per cent of all the ammunition used in World War II by Britain. Afterwards the site was developed by Liverpool Corporation as an industrial estate and played a large part in the growth of Kirkby from a population of barely over 3,000 in 1951 to over 52,000 by 1961.
There were two explosions at Kirkby ROF, one in February 1944 and one on September 15, 1944. Two people were killed in the first accident and 14 killed and 11 injured in the second. It took three months of work to clear 4,000 bombs which were buried in the rubble after the second accident, and there was a total of 37 awards for bravery and distinguished conduct made by the King.