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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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Incorporation (Paste) Expense Magazines :

Key Points :-

  • Located in three embanked bays beside each Incorporation House (Narrow Milling House).
  • Accessed by Narrow-Gauge site railway.
  • Square gritless asphalt base and paths survive.
  • Framed structure clad with asbestos cement sheeting.
  • Access to Incorporation Houses (Narrow Milling Houses) through angled passages.
  • Inferred function as short-term stores for Modified Ballistite Paste from 'Wet Mix'.
  • Twelve of eighteen embayed sites survive but all buildings demolished.
  • Sheltered areas popular with wildlife.

Incorporation Expense Magazine by Unit 1 Cordite Incorporation House 2
Incorporation Expense Magazine by Unit 1 Cordite Incorporation House 2

Incorporation Expense Magazines ...

The three embanked bays beside each Incorporation House (map survey : Narrow Milling House - NMH), with their square of gritless asphalt and fragmentary wall sheeting, presented an obvious puzzle. The position made it clear that each bay served up to four of the rooms in the Incorporation House, presumably for storage. When it was realised that the NMH were in fact Incorporation Houses, where the Modified Ballistite Paste from 'Wet Mix' at the Burette Houses was mixed thoroughly with additives into Cordite Dough, the bays had to be either for raw paste or the finished Cordite Dough.

The term 'Ballistite' technically refers to a mix of 10% camphor, 45% nitroglycerine and 45% nitrocellulose, invented by Alfred Nobel. The term is in generic use for the gelatinised mix of modified Blasting Gelatine consisting of Nitroglycerine, Guncotton and acetone, before milling (incorporation and pressing) into finished Cordite MD or Cordite N. In view of their location, it seemed best to the writer to term the buildings 'Incorporation Expense Magazines', in keeping with terminology used at an explosive works at Carsegowan. Any reader with a convincing technical argument for an alternative interpretation or title will be welcome to e-mail their comments.

Incorporation Expense Magazine
 by Unit 1 Cordite Incorporation House 2 from NW
Incorporation Expense Magazine by Unit 1 Cordite Incorporation House 2, from NW. Access tunnel in corner

Archaeological Evidence for the Embanked Bay Structures / Incorporation Expense Magazines :

Map analysis provided minimal information, in fact the maps failed to show the bays correctly in Unit 2 (Edingham) and only three of the nine bays in Unit 2 survive. It is presumed that the buildings were demolished during the process of site decontamination when the factory was decommissioned in 1945. Onsite examination identified a total of nine bays beside the three Incorporation Houses in Unit 1 (Southwick), all in surprisingly good condition. A typical group of three bays was served by a spur of the Narrow Gauge bogie railway, with unloading paths from the kerb running to the presumed 'front' entrance of each Incorporation Expense Magazine. The position of the 'back' exit to the Incorporation House is uncertain, but the angled passages (which prevent accidental explosions blasting straight into the Incorporation House verandas) approach the back wall of the magazine near a corner. Excavation would be needed to reveal the exact site of the exit and any wall-plate or sill-beam.

The magazines were built using panels of corrugated asbestos cement fastened to a framework, the whole being externally bolted down to a concrete wall-plate. The roofs were also probably of asbestos cement and the doors may have been louvered to provide ventilation for fumes. It is guessed that the Modified Ballistite arrived from 'Wet Mix' (Burette Houses) in canvas sacks lined with a waterproof material such as rubber or gutta-percha, plastic not being available at that date. The alternative is zinc-lined boxes or cases, but sacks or bags were certainly used for later transport at Ardeer from Incorporation to Press Houses.

All three sets of embayments survive in Unit 1. Those in Unit 2, going from the south, are respectively levelled (with other milling structures), present and replaced by a silage store.

Incorporation Expense Magazines and Wildlife :

The writer was astonished to find that the embayments of the Expense Magazines were havens for plants, birds and animals, with bushes of Elder, Gorse, Broom and Hawthorn, flowers such as Cornflower, Tormentil and Speedwell, with various birds, butterflies, ants, other insects and at least one Sand Lizard. Field Mice and Field Vole appear to be present, and there are numerous rabbit burrows. This explains the Incorporation Houses' popularity as a bird roost for seed eaters such as Rock Dove and Owls and Buzzards that predate small mammals.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.