The Royal Ordnance Factory
Bridgend South Wales
 
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The Building Phases

The Waterton site contractors were appointed; these were “Gee Walker & Slater Limited” and “Sir Lindsay Parkinson & Co Ltd”; they were originally expected to complete the factories by June 1940. The construction of the magazine tunnels, factory 11, and factory 41 at the Brackla site was contracted in 1937 to Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons Ltd.

The Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factory was split into two sites, one either side of Brackla Hill, the Waterton site was located on the South side of the hill and was the first part of the construction phase. Whilst, to it’s North the Brackla/Coity site construction was split into two phases, with the 7 magazine tunnels started in 1938, the Filling and Fuze Powder Factory groups “A” & “S in 1939/40. (See "the 8X's in the "Whats Left" chapter and Brackla in the "Sites" chapter)


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Most of the building material was initially shipped into the sites from the rail depots by 4 and 5 ton lorries owned by the Great Western Railway company, over 340,000 tons were shipped into the Waterton site and 145,000 tons to the Brackla site during the construction phases. Together over 1100 buildings were constructed mainly of wood, brick and concrete, over 12,000,000 bricks were used plus enough concrete to cover over four square miles.

The types and number of buildings that were needed were many and varied. Those associated with non-explosive assembly were often made of wood whilst some were double skinned brick walls, these were not cavity walls, and the buildings were almost all single storey, in the main they had flat roofs, and were usually protected by earth mounds.

Some of these had windows well above head height to avoid the effects from explosive blasts, and maybe to avoid prying eyes. At best they gave some daylight to the occupants, but they no doubt caused problems at night-time keeping and maintaining blackout conditions, which would have either resulted in their removal or blacking.

Other buildings involved in the assembly of explosives were usually of a more robust construction, being made in part from reinforced concrete, they would have had blast walls and earth mounds surrounding them; shielding them from adjacent buildings and the effects from bomb blasts.

Between the two sites over 58 miles of roadway was constructed, the rail network eventually occupied 24 miles of track and sidings.

The electric power cables would have spanned over 300 miles if they had been laid out in a straight line. Over 20 miles of water piping was employed with drainage and sewage piping taking up over 64 miles of pipe-work.

Camouflaging the site would have been a major task, although flat roofs and earth mounds would have aided this, but railway lines and roads would have been a clear give away

Storage for munitions was another consideration, and here the Brackla ridge that separated the two sites provided an ideal solution, it was decided to construct seven magazine tunnels in the hillside at an estimated cost of £400,00 to £500,000.

The tunnels were driven into the hillside, were of a similar in construction to those of the London underground network. Each tunnel had a series of side chambers for storage, and their entrances were serviced by a railway - with an extended platform inside for unloading and loading the trains. Because of the shortage of pig iron in 1937 two of the seven tunnels were constructed from concrete liners. However, problems were encountered during construction because of the nature of the hillside; which was mainly shale and clay, this added a further £100,000 to their construction cost.(See "the 8X's in the "Whats Left" chapter)

The seven tunnels were located on the North side of the ridge but none were interconnected, later an eighth under road tunnel was constructed between the Waterton site and it’s adjacent (burning grounds) disposal area.

Access to each tunnel (except the under road tunnel) was via a gully cut into the hillside, with a covered gantry at the approach to each entrance; these reduced the risk of bombs hitting the actual entrances.

The administration offices were constructed at the South West end of the site within easy reach of town centre; today these buildings are the headquarters of the South Wales Constabulary.

The first phase of the construction program was completed during 1939, although the Factory did not start producing arms in any volume until after the outbreak of war. As the anticipated war approached the construction program was accelerated. This escalated the construction cost of the Bridgend ROF from £4,633,000 to £7,210231.

(See Appendix 9 for breakdown of these costs).

A major problem at this time was the shortage of carpenters and bricklayers it was estimated that 550 extra carpenters, and 600 bricklayers would be required to complete the two sites by February 1940. At government level the Ministry of Labour moved to direct all non-essential building activities to the construction of munitions factories. At this time the two sites already employed 1350 skilled men and 2800 unskilled men.

(See reference document LAB 8/256 held at the public records office KEW).

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