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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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Sewage Farms and Disposal Systems :-

Key Points :-

  • Site isolated from local piped sewage services.
  • Separate sewage farms to the southwest of each Canteen.
  • Freestanding 1 and 2 compartment latrines.
  • Latrines emptied by 'Honey Bogies'.
  • Bucket toilets in each air Raid Shelter.
  • Sewage farm treatment using surface tanks and two filter beds.
  • Unit 1 sewage farm still present under brushwood growth. Treated effluent drained into Kirkgunzeon Lane.
    Unit 2 sewage farm demolished in 1990s when Stelrads was linked to the Dalbeattie sewage system..
  • Land drains and storm water systems used to drain site water to ponds at lowest points.
  • Pumping stations used to send drainage water and some water from the Knock Burn and the Lane to process purposes.

Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie - Unit 1 Sewage Farm Filter Beds
Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie - Unit 1 Sewage Farm Filter Beds

Sewage Farms and Disposal Systems in the M/S Factory Dalbeattie :

When the Ministry of Supply Factory Dalbeattie was set up, it was essentially in a greenfield (heathland and pasture) site that had no utility services at all and limited watercourses, so river disposal of sewage was impossible. The sewage works of Dalbeattie was a modest structure south of the town, that would need massive expansion to handle the factory waste. Instead, the ICI Nobel designers very sensibly decided to provide their own sewage management systems, on the lines of a successful system in use at Ardeer.

The Canteen and other buildings in the Central Services area were given a standard flushed toilet sewerage system that was piped to a gravity-fed pair of sewage farms to the southwest of each Canteen. In view of the fact that the prevailing wind was from the south west, this does not appear a sensible solution, but the site nature was such that this choice was inevitable. The sewage farm for Dalbeattie is also due south west of the town, but half a mile from the nearest housing estate, so the town has got away with a design that appears poorly chosen.

As surveys of the site proceeded, it became clear that the Process buildings had been served by freestanding brick one and two compartment latrines, apparently being dry (earth-type) toilets or chemical toilets. Chemical toilets were definitely used in the Air Raid Shelters, the compartments being next to the emergency escape ladder and hatch, presumably taking advantage of the natural air flow.

The Sewage Farms :

Two sewage works with a pair of circular filter beds were installed 500 feet southwest of each canteen block, the purified effluent from Unit 1 (Southwick) may have been discharged by a sluice into the Kirkgunzeon Lane. The sewage plant in Unit 2 (Edingham) discharged beneath the railway embankment into a lagoon in the adjacent field, from where it entered a surface watercourse. Bearing in mind that over 350 workers may have used each of the canteens in every shift, the requirement for sewage processing was an essential matter.

The 'Honey Bogie' :

It is still not clear what happened to sewage from toilets elsewhere in the works, but either septic tanks or piped disposal to sewage works may have been needed. The site held many air raid shelters and one- and two-bucket 'dry' bucket toilets. Apparently at ICI Nobel's Ardeer works, the daily collection by sewage bowser or 'Honey Bogie' was a form of disciplinary punishment and the most hated job on site. Whilst it is possible that phenol or dry soil was used to help make the toilets acceptable, the cheapest system (commonest in Australia) involved tarred galvanised buckets that were dipped in hot tar after being emptied.

Septic Disposal :

Whilst the bucket toilets definitely did exist, it is possible that some buildings could have made use of septic tanks and underground drainage fields. This is suspected to be the case with the Gatehouses and Search Rooms at Edingham and Southwick and the Administrative block at the junction with the A711.

Disposal of other Refuse and the 'Burning Ground' :

Presumably most refuse was either burnt or dumped at the nearby Dalbeattie Municipal Tip at Aucheninnes Bog. It is known that contraband goods found in the Search Rooms were liable to be bonfired close by. 'Waste' Cordite and Nitroglycerine impregnated mud were burnt at a 'Burning Ground', the location of which is not known. However, in view of the prevailing wind and the need to avoid sparks, it is suspected that the Burning Ground was in the area near Culkiest Farm now occupied by a fir plantation. It would be well clear of all process and storage buildings.

Adam Barber at Dupont Teijin Dumfries recalled that their Burning Ground had been no more than a brick wall downwind of the site against which the chemical-contaminated refuse and any equipment up for maintenance were piled and fired. The equipment was deliberately designed to take such stresses, which made sure that any potentially explosive contamination was safely burnt off.

Examination of the 1940s air photographs reveals that there was a long quarry face in the northeast corner of the site, currently covered over by a plantation. It will be inspected at a forthcoming visit.

Conclusions :

As with water supply, the sewage disposal system seems to have adopted a number of different strategies to achieve its objective. This underlines the need to reconcile site problems with the needs of wartime production.

The disposal of other refuse on the 'Burning Ground' needs more investigation.

Some interpretations are uncertain. Visitors with technical knowledge are invited to submit their comments.


© 2006 Richard Edkins, Dalbeattie Internet.