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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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Laboratories and Offices :-

Key Facts :-

  • In Unit 2 (Edingham) near Railway Station. Outer office near Edingham Main Gate
  • Quality testing of :-
    • Raw Materials
    • Acid Concentrations.
    • Nitroglycerine Purity.
    • Nitrocellulose Purity.
    • Raw Cordite.
    • Finished Cordite.
  • Safety & Product Standardisation.
  • Offices and Laboratories re-roofed and re-used in Stelrad factory.

Unit 2 Office and Laboratory Block from SW
Unit 2 Office and Laboratory Block from SW

Laboratories & Offices :

The history of the offices and laboratories at M/S Factory Dalbeattie remains rather unclear. The best-known site was an outer office beside the A711 junction with the site access road, the only signs now remaining being concrete foundations. The main offices and the laboratories were located in the Unit 2 (Edingham) central complex near the Railway Station and Canteen. For many years it was thought that these buildings had been completely destroyed during construction of the Stelrad factory. A visit to the works (now used as storage by MilkLink) revealed that the old offices are in fact standing and in excellent repair. The adjacent building appears to be the laboratory but this is still unclear.

Laboratory Functions at the Factory :

Every raw material and process stage had to be stringently sampled and the samples tested to ensure that the product was to an acceptable standard of purity and performance. To give examples, the acids supplied to the Nitration Hills had to be checked on arrival at the two Acid Plants, then again before being pumped to the Hills and before and during the nitration process. The Refuse Acid from the process had to be sampled to measure its purity and concentration before and after de-nitrification, then during the separate re-concentration to Nitric Acid and Concentrated Oil of Vitriol. THe Nitric Acid was mixed with fuming Sulphuric Acid (Oleum) to produce concentrated Mixed Acids before being stored, but it too had to be tested.

Impurities in the raw materials or the water supply were potentially highly dangerous; Nitroglycerine from the Nitration Hills could be decomposed and become spontaneously explosive, if left impure, so samples were again taken throughout the process.

Whilst some samples (e.g. acid strengths) could be field-tested at the section where they were taken, the most reliable results called for laboratory testing to the best available standards. Batch samples were taken at various stages of the process and brought in for testing. It is suspected that the mysterious embanked 'House X' was the onsite laboratory in each NG Hill for the testing of Nitroglycerine samples - lethally dangerous if carrying acid impurities.

Offices in the Factory :

Certain functions were not duplicated on both sites, the Fire Station being in Unit 1 and the Offices and Laboratories in Unit 2. There were two large barrack-like buildings with pitched roofs between the old Edingham farm barn beside the A711 and the Edingham road junction. The base of the southern building and its rear car park used to be the local authority salted grit depot up to about the year 2000. A site inspection further towards the farm barn revealed that both office buildings had been completely demolished, but that their coal store was intact. This building was a long narrow rectangle barely five feet high, with entrances at each end and a wall across its centre.

The Laboratory block may have had a dual function as an Office, but there were buildings close to it that may have had an office function shown on the wartime air photographs.

Unit 2 Factory Office foundations at Edingham road junction
Unit 2 Factory Office foundations at Edingham road junction


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.