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Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie -
 View of Nitration Hills, Unit 2 (Edingham)

Ministry of Supply Factory, Dalbeattie
World War II Cordite Works

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Cordite Milling Section -
Additive Stores

Key Points :-

  • Unusual two-chamber structure with roofs at different heights and separate entrances.
  • Lower roof chamber (1) has safety lights, asphalted floor, RSJ in roof from door to door..
  • Higher roof chamber (2) has ordinary lights, offset entrances and brick floor (part raised).
  • Used for different substances or purposes.
  • Location by Cordite Milling section indicates process or storage use.
  • Additional acetone may have been added by 'watering can'.
  • Vaseline may have been added during Incorporation process.
  • Vaseline 'Jelly Melting House' at other sites.
  • Additive Store/Expense Magazine possible function.

Unit 2 Cordite Milling Section - Presumed Additive Stores
Unit 2 Cordite Milling Section - Presumed Additive Stores

Cordite Milling Section - Additive Store :

These unusual buildings proved a considerable problem for identification, chiefly because of their contradictory lighting systems. All buildings dealing with explosives and inflammables have safety lighting, whilst all buildings dealing with explosives also have gritless acid-resistant asphalt floors. This building shares with the Press Houses and Incorporation Houses a strange division within it. The Press and Incorporation Houses deliberately split the passages containing electrical motors from their process rooms. Unfortunately, there seemed no sign of a shaft-drive through the dividing wall of this third building, of which only three examples survive upon site.

For reasons examined below, it was decided that this structure had been used to store and to prepare the smaller volume of minor ingredients or additives needed to Incorporate or convert Modified Ballistite Cordite Paste into Cordite Dough for the Press and Paste Rolling Houses.

Archaeological Features of the Presumed Additive Stores :

The building is a unique design, having different roof levels either side of a central wall. The chambers are broadly the same area, but differ markedly.

The lower roof chamber has three special features. :-

  • Two externally-accessed safety lights above and to the side of the doorways, as found in site process and storage buildings for inflammable and explosive substances.
  • An I-beam (Rolled Steel Joist, RSJ) above the centreline of the two doors, which face one another. This could be for a simple hoist, for moving sacks, drums or crates, from one door to the other.
  • A floor of acid-resistant gritless asphalt.

The higher roof chamber has three contrasting features. :-

  • There are remains of a conventional filament light system.
  • The doors are slightly offset.
  • The floor is of closely-laid brick, with in one corner a slightly-raised brick platform for some piece of equipment.

Externally, there is a platform for unloading goods from a Narrow Gauge bogie railway on one side of the building, whilst on the other there is an asphalt-covered concrete trackway that runs across the Press Room Narrow Gauge bogie spur and towards the Incorporation House. This indicates that material prepared in this 'Additive Store' was involved in the processes in one or both of these Cordite Milling houses.

Interpreting the Function and Processes of the Additives Store :

From Australian War Memorial pictures of ICI Deer Park (Melbourne) it was evident that additional Acetone may have been added to the Modified Ballistite Paste in the Incorporators that mixed the Cordite Dough. At some stage, it was also necessary to add Vaseline to the mixture, and Wayne Cocroft's work on Chilworth Powder Works showed that Jelly Melting Houses were used to prepare the Vaseline before mixing. The corollary was that somewhere before or during Paste Incorporation, these two additives needed to be held and prepared for use. There was the third possibility that a small quantity of Picrite would be added to the Paste, with Incorporation again being the most likely point in the process.

The low roofed chamber was likely for these reasons to have been used for unpacking cases of Picrite or holding cans of Acetone for store and forwarding to the nearest Incorporation House. In the circumstances Picrite seems the likeliest material, as cases could have needed a hoist to move them and cans would not. The high-roofed chamber may have held a steam-heated tank into which Vaseline drums could be emptied, the jelly turned to a liquid that could have been poured into the Baker-Perkins Incorporators.

Although these interpretations cannot be regarded as complete, the writer feels that 'Additive Store' is the most reasonable assessment of the evidence.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.