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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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Air Raid Shelters :

Key Points :-

  • Around 20 surviving air raid shelters found.
  • 10, 20 and 50 person shelters.
  • Brick and concrete construction.
  • Blast-trapped entryways and covered escape shafts.
  • Internal lighting and bucket toilet compartments.
  • Assigned to particular work areas.
  • Now heavily overgrown.
  • Parts of some buildings may have served as air raid shelters.

50-man shelter in field near 'The Trees', Edingham.
50-man shelter in field near 'The Trees', Edingham

Air Raid Shelters at M/S Factory Dalbeattie :


Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie was a critical part of Britain's ammunition supply industry, as such a presumed target for air attack. For this reason, the site was particularly well equipped with an assortment of air raid shelters, sited near enough to the buildings for staff to reach them easily. Many still survive despite 60 years of farm and army demolition, a record of the resources spent to protect the lives of the essential staff at the Factory. They vary in size from small 10-person shelters and 25-person shelters up to massive 50-person shelters like the one illustrated above. As they are a lesser item in the buildings inventory, they have so far been noted but only six have been investigated - partly due to thornbushes at their entries and a certain amount of mud. Internally, they are in surprisingly good condition, needing only a few finishings to restore them to use.

Some of the buildings - for example, the Canteen ground floor and the blockhouses by the Nitration Hills - are so strongly built that they appear to have been able to stand up to anything but a direct hit. It is possible that staff were also sheltered in these structures in the event of an air raid.

Types of Air Raid Shelter :

10-person Shelter :-
These have been found near the 'Wet Mix' and Drying buildings. They have a standard right-angle blast-trap entry, with signs of an inner door into a small strongly-built chamber. At the far end are the remains of a timber cubicle for a chemical toilet and beside it the metal ladder to the manhole of the escape shaft. The manhole cover is usually missing. It appears from some locations that the cover was supported on heavy bolts to allow through-ventilation. There are signs of light fittings on the ceilings inside most shelters. No furniture is present but it is guessed that free-standing benches were used for seating.

20/25-person Shelter :-
Similar in internal provision to the 10-person shelter but with greater length. Much the most common size surviving, usually (unfortunately) without the manhole cover.

50-person Shelter :-
The example in the field by 'The Trees' bungalow at Edingham is rather full of cattle-dung. It is a double version of the 25-person shelter, the escape hatch ends being back to back. This particular example is a few minutes' dash from the site of the administrative block on the corner of the road junction.

Unit 1 NG Hill - 10-man Air Raid Shelter
Unit 1 NG Hill - 10-man Air Raid Shelter
Unit 1 Air Raid Shelter escape ladder
Unit 1 Air Raid Shelter escape ladder (hatch cover missing)
Unit 1 Air Raid Shelter ladder and site of bucket toilet
Unit 1 Air Raid Shelter with remains of bucket toilet cubicle.

Buildings with possible Built-In Shelters :

The most obvious ones so far identified are the Press Houses' back passages which an ARP notice clearly states could be used in an emergency. The other likely ones are the ground floors of the Canteens, whose heavy construction and reinforced concrete interfloor show it may have been used as the Canteens' air raid shelters.

Almost opposite the Canteen and Boiler House is the blast-walled and windowless Fire Station, Decontamination and First Aid building. This would have a very obvious role as a shelter in the event of an air attack.

Conclusions :

Air Raid Shelters tend to be a neglected subject in most wartime sites, but the well-preserved assemblage at M/S Factory Dalbeattie has thrown light on the importance of these structures, for morale onsite if nothing else. As with other structures on the Factory site, there is need for further investigation.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.