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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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Guncotton Expense Magazines :-

Key Points :-

  • Storage for Guncotton before blending with Nitroglycerine into Cordite Paste.
  • Interpretation based on location near Burette Houses.
  • Embanked Houses with single Narrow Gauge bogie entry.
  • House built of asbestos sheet on frame.
  • Acid Resistant gritless asphalt floor.
  • Two known locations in Unit 1, two presumed in Unit 2.
  • Accessed by Narrow Gauge site railway.
  • Possible Unit 2 Guncotton Expense Magazine near Cordite Rolling House.
  • Construction of Edingham Industrial Estate may have destroyed other Guncotton Expense Magazines.
  • Some of the Short Single Chamber buildings may have been further Guncotton Expense Magazines.
  • Investigations continue.

Unit 1 Burette House 4
Unit 1 Burette House 4

Guncotton Expense Magazines (GEM) at M/S Factory Dalbeattie :

Bagged Guncotton brought from M/S Drungans at Dumfries was unloaded at the Guncotton Unloading Stations in Unit 1 and Unit 2 and stored before use in the Burette Houses to make Cordite. Demolition of most of the Short Single Chamber buildings between the KIrkgunzeon Lane and the Unit 2 site was thought to have destroyed the Guncotton (Nitrocellulose) storage. On completion of field surveys at Unit 1 (Southwick), it was discovered that two embanked and demolished Houses stood close to the Burette Houses. The characteristics and positions of these buildings - and the lack of other interpretations - made it most likely that these were the storage for at least some of the Guncotton needed on a daily basis.

The Unit 2 (Edingham) equivalents of these Expense Magazines may have been completely destroyed during site clearances and the construction of the Edingham Industrial Estate and Stelrad's radiator factory around the former Central Services Area in Unit 2. An unidentified and now demolished embanked building of similar size to the Guncotton Expense Magazines of Unit 1 did exist next to the Unit 2 Cordite Rolling House (also referred to on this website as a Double Sided Building), but it would be at a considerable distance from the Unit 2 Burette Houses. A more suitable location would have been on the site of the small industrial units on the Estate or where Niven's Transport yard now stands.

It is hoped to use 1942 RAF air photographs of the site to provide more data on this and other site features.

Archaeological Evidence for the Guncotton Expense Magazines (GEM) :

The only surviving structures that may be these features are in Unit 1. They are both near the Burette Houses on the edge of the slope holding Burette Houses 1/4 and 1/5 and the Unit 1 Nitroglycerine Section (NG HIll). :-

  • Guncotton Expense Magazine 1/1 : Located between Burette House 1/3 and the entry of the cutting to Burette House 1/4. The front face of this structure partially bulldozed and the one entry was collapsed. This entry and interior of the embanked area showed that it had been for a Narrow Gauge bogie railway spur. The rectangular gritless asphalt floor of the House survives inside a concrete wall-plate for a framed structure clad in asbestos cement. The platform for loading and unloading the bogies is also identifiable.
  • Guncotton Expense Magazine 1/2. : Located between Unit 1 NG Hill's Wash Water Settlement Hill D1 and the presumed site of Burette 1/6, beside the long Narrow Gauge cutting leading to Burette 1/5. The Expense Magazine is intact but heavily overgrown and almost inaccessible. A careful search identified similar features to the GEM 1/1, including a Narrow Gauge bogie spur entering through a corner of the rectangle. The area was almost the same as that within a typical Burette House, but an exact measurement was impossible because of the overgrowth.
Initial map studies had revealed neither these structures nor Burette 1/6, presumably because the masking of the structures by vegetation and damage had concealed the truth. There were no pipe supports running towards either building, unlike all the other process buildings on the site.

Interpretation of the Guncotton Expense Magazines :

Neither of these two structures was initially identified because of their similarity to Burette Houses. The lack of concrete bases for tanks and motors and the fact that neither had the concrete trough tank at its end, forced the writer to reconsider the evidence. :-

  • Guncotton storage had yet to be found near the Burette Houses and the Short Single Chamber buildings were too far away.
  • Guncotton was transported by Narrow Gauge bogie railway from the Guncotton Unloading Station and to the Burette Houses, so the new structures had to be considered.
  • Embanked structures were used onsite for storage or processing of possibly unstable explosive materials.
  • Guncotton Expense Magazines should be reasonably close to the Burette Houses and might be in some proportion with them, at a ratio of 1:2 or 1:3.
  • There would be no need for heating and so no pipe supports were to be expected for steam lines.
Guncotton Expense Magazines were therefore the most likely explanation given location and other circumstances.

Conclusion and Summary of Processes :

Bags of Guncotton from the Guncotton Unloading Station at the Goods Yard were brought on bogies (possibly on a daily basis) into the embankment and unloaded into the Guncotton Expense Magazine. Some of the bags were probably removed every shift to those adjacent Burette Houses required for the current batch of cordite paste. This would account for the size of the Expense Houses, excess Guncotton possibly being stored in one or more of the Short Single Chamber buildings.

Further investigation may be possible with air photography and during winter after leaf-fall.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.