Gretna, Scotland - History - World War I

World War I

The village was notable for HM Factory, Gretna, codenamed Moorside, a huge cordite munitions factory built nearby on the shore of Solway Firth to supply ammunition to British forces during World War I. The factory, the biggest munitions factory ever built, stretched for nine miles from Eastriggs along the Solway coast as far as Longtown in England and two miles across. The factory took 10,000 navvies to build it, and employed 30,000 workers, mostly women. The workers mixed by hand a devil’s porridge of nitro-glycerine and guncotton into cordite paste, and loaded the extruded cordite strands into shell cases.

Gretna and Eastriggs were built to house the workforce, and many were accommodated nearby in Carlisle. When 5,000 workers arrived back by train to Carlisle, one publican had 1,000 whiskies lined up. The labourers and workers had such a reputation for drunkenness, which was seen by Government as such a threat to the national interest, that Gretna and the surrounding area became a historical curiosity for a considerable period. Under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 a State Management Scheme was set up in 1916 to bring the liquor industry, including public houses (pubs) and the local breweries, under Government control over a wide area stretching as far as Carlisle and Maryport. There were Spiritless Saturdays, and buying anyone else a drink (shouting), and heaters and coolers (drinking beer and spirits in the same pub) were banned. The pub landlords, became civil servants, were instructed to follow a disinterested management policy and not allow people to get drunk in the pubs. The State Management Scheme persisted for many years after the First World War was long over and the munitions factories dismantled. It was not until the early 1970s, when the low prices and unadulterated beer in the Gretna area began to become conspicuous, that the government enterprise was sold off by the Heath government.

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Famous quotes containing the words war i, war and/or world:

    Now, were I once at home, and in good satire,
    I’d try conclusions with those Janizaries,
    And show them what an intellectual war is.
    George Gordon Noel Byron (1788–1824)

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    Subject the material world to the higher ends by understanding it in all its relations to daily life and action.
    Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards (1842–1911)