The Royal Ordnance Factory
Bridgend South Wales
 
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A Typical Day

All over the local towns and valleys stretching from Camarthen in the West to Newport in the East the morning shift would rise early from bed (typically 5.0am) in the mornings ready for long bus and rail trips to the Bridgend Royal Ordnance Factories.

In the main the factory workers worked shifts, and a basic shift would last for 7½ hours, this included a ¾ hour for meals; the standard working week being 45 hours. The Bridgend ROF operated a three shift system and each shift grouping was designated a colour, these were RED, BLUE, and GREEN and they rotated weekly following an afternoons, days, and nights sequence.

The morning shift commenced at 7.0am and finished at 2.30pm, whilst the afternoon shift started at 2.45pm and finished at 10.15pm, whilst the night shift started at 10.30pm and finished at 6.0 am the following day.

By 7 am all would be clocking on for a long shift, and in most cases special clothing had to be worn, this was donned in the changing rooms (also known as shifting houses). The lucky few that worked in the offices could wear normal clothing; however, all had to wear special shoes inside the inner security area.

Often, machines were run 24 hours a day, so the operators would pick up where the previous shift workers had left off.

Special tools were used in the filling of the bomb cases; these were virtually all wooden, the worker would often be covered in the chemicals that dyed their skin, hair, and sometimes their teeth yellow or orange.

As stated elsewhere music was piped throughout the factory workshops, to help overcome the boredom of some of the repetitive jobs.

There were strict procedures laid down, and any transgression was harshly dealt with, usually by instant sacking. Horseplay was treated just as seriously.

Meal breaks were taken in the canteens, where the latest gossip or war stories were exchanged, often war films were shown, and occasionally other forms of entertainment or talks were laid on. At the end of the lunch period a siren would sound and all would trundle back to their place of work, and continue their interrupted tasks.

There were often interruptions when the air raid siren sounded or when a machine broke down, this respite often gave the opportunity to have a natter in the shelter or visit to the loo.

Most of the workers were trained on a single machine or operation, whilst others could operate more than one type of machine.

Sometimes, workers would feign sickness, take a few days off and then come back to work late in the week so they could earn overtime at a premium rate. These individuals knew that they would not be sacked as there was a shortage of labour, and it would have been pointless sacking them in this situation.

Overtime was only paid after a specified number of hours had been completed, this was at the rate of 11/3 for the first two hours, and then at 1½ for the remaining hours.

Overtime was paid after 12 noon on Saturdays at the weekday rates, but all hours on a Sunday were paid at the double time rate.

Accidents were rare but they did occur sometimes with devastating effects that killed and maimed the workers, with loss of fingers or hands being the most common form of injury.

All of this was the lot in life of a worker at the plant, each day was different, and each day brought new challenges, one central theme is the dedication shown by the many who worked at the Bridgend Arsenal as the factory was now called.

(See personal stories in the "WORKERS" chapter)

 

 

 

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