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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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Central Services Areas : Administration, Stores, Workshops and Support

Key Facts :-

  • Separate Central Service Areas for Units 1 and 2, each with different features.
  • Unit 1 (Southwick) buildings largely unaltered from 1945. Unit 2 buildings absorbed into Stelrad radiator factory.
  • Three building groups listed here - Platform, Roadside and Goods Yard.
  • Platform :- Boiler House, Canteen, Guncotton Unloading, Station Office, Stores, Acid Plant.
  • Roadside (mainly Unit 1) :- Fire/First Aid Station, Acetone Plant, Laboratories, Administration, Glycerine Store.
  • Goods Yard :- Electricity Substation, Trackside Workshop and Shunting Engine Shed.
  • Arrangements vary slightly between Unit 1 and 2 - Acid Plant and Boiler House opposite positions.
  • Layout designed to service the process buildings, sometimes with problems for staff.

Unit 1 Goods Yard with Canteen and Guncotton Unloading Station and Acetone Plant beyond Canteen
Unit 1 Goods Yard with Canteen and Guncotton Unloading Station and Acetone Plant beyond Canteen

Central Services Areas in the M/S Factory Dalbeattie :

This is often overlooked when considering processes and production, but the two Central Services areas were the heart of each unit. Acids, Acetone, Glycerine, Guncotton, Coal and other essentials, were unloaded here. The Boiler Houses and the Substations provided the heat and power needed to make the processes work, the Canteen gave staff with their cleaning and living needs and the Fire Stations and First Aid Units had to respond rapidly to any crisis.

Unit 2 varied from the surviving Unit 1 in some crucial ways. The main Laboratories and Administration block were located here, and the Acid Plant and Boiler House (at northeast and southeast ends of the Platform Group) change places in Unit 1. That reflects the need for relatively short pipe-runs from Acid Plant to Nitroglycerine Hill, and meant that the coal yard for each Boiler House faced the other either side of the railway viaduct across the Kirkgunzeon Lade. The problem for staff was that the fumes from the Acid Plant in Unit 2 tended to blow towards the Canteen in still and warm conditions, forming an unpleasant and acidic chemical smog.

The writer has had to adopt the title 'Central Services Area' for this area, as no surviving title exists. The names given to the three Groups - Platform, Roadside and Goods Yard - again reflect position rather than wartime terminology. Visitors with more information are invited to give this using the link in the Copyright line at the bottom of the page.

The Three Groups of Buildings in the Central Services Areas :

Note that this layout is based on Unit 1, the buildings in each Group running from southwest to northeast. Unit 2 (as presently understood) reversed the positioning of the Boiler House and Acid Plan in the Platform Group and the Substation in the Goods Yard Group. Unit 2 buildings were so heavily modified from the 1960s that in some cases only an outside wall or two survives. This is particularly the case with the Guncotton Unloading Rooms and the stores beyond.
Click on the links to inspect separate pages of survey and discussion of each building type. The square-bracket codes are the official codes used in the 1940s, but are too few to apply. :-

  1. Platform Group : These buildings stand on or beside the line of the Goods Yard platform :-
  2. Roadside Group : Buildings to the northwest of the road beside the Platform Group buildings :-
  3. Goods Yard Group : A few buildings standing between the goods sidings and the main railway line from Dumfries to Stranraer.

To date (17th August 2006) the following facilities are still to be identified :-

  • Double-sided Buildings DSB - 1 in each Unit. Possibly Cordite Paste Rolling Houses.
  • Short Single-Chamber Buildings - SSC - Multiple functions, and some 14 between Units 1 and 2 and 6 near the Single Chamber Magazines. Only 4 survive.
  • Demolished embanked House (similar to a Nitration House) in Unit 2 near the 3-chamber Magazine.

The site can be understood in general terms, but the details are still a headache. Matching the Processes to the surveyed structures remains the greatest challenge of all.

To summarise the main problems :-

  • Site railways (2'6" gauge) and pipe runs are still not surveyed. Some signs in Unit 1 that both wheeled trolleys and bogie railway trolleys were used.
  • The floor detail of most buildings in Unit 2 and some in Unit 1 is hidden by up to 150 mm of cattle dung.
  • A complete map of the two Units does not yet exist east of NGR Easting NX2850. This will entail a mapping survey.
  • Only a handful of site workers remain alive and most will be gone within a few years.
  • Police and Army exercises could pose a serious risk to structural detail and graffiti, unless asked to leave them alone.

On a positive note, Matthew Taylor is supportive of this survey and site. It is hoped that it will give him some form of return for site visits and maybe profit from a visitor facility.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.