Monday 15 January 2018

Of all the roles women took on during the First World War their work in munitions factories was probably the most vital. Without the bullets and shells they produced the British Army couldn't have carried on fighting.

This archive film, A Day In The Life Of A Munitions Worker, was made in 1917 at the Chilwell Arms Factory in Nottinghamshire. The clips show some of the tasks a female munitions worker would have had to do while working in the factories. The film also shows the workers having a basic medical inspection.

It was in the factory owner's interest to ensure their workforce remained healthy. However, working in the factories could be unpleasant, uncomfortable and often very dangerous. The female workers, nicknamed 'munitionettes', had limited protection against the toxic chemicals they had to use. Over 200 women lost their lives through accidents, explosions, or poisoning from handling chemical explosives.

On 1 July 1918, an explosion at Chilwell killed 134 workers - male and female - and wounded many more.

'Munitionettes' were only employed during the war. The government negotiated with the trade unions to ensure that when the war ended the women would leave and their jobs would once again be filled by men.

© IWM

Leaving For Work At 5AM

© IWM

Changing Into Work Clothes and Timing In

© IWM

On The Factory Floor?

© IWM

Finishing The Shell

© IWM

Protection Against Poisons and Fumes

© IWM

Ready For The Front

© IWM

Medical 
Examination

© IWM

Working For Victory

Discover more about the men and women who worked at Chilwell Arms Factory on Lives of the First World War.

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