ROYAL ORDNANCE FACTORY 53

Gwilym Elwyn Lloyd
1912 - 2001

During WWII an overspill country branch of the Woolwich Arsenal was built at Waterton on the outskirts of Bridgend. The Royal Ordnance Factory, No 53 - known as "The Arsenal & The Admiralty" to locals, was opened in 1938 a year before the outbreak of WWII .  It was constructed in two distinct sections, one for storing ammunition (The Arsenal) and the other as a shell-filling factory for the Navy (The Admiralty).

Gwilym Elwyn Lloyd, aged 89 and buried 13th October 2001 is best remembered for his part in the construction and development of the Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) at Bridgend, Glamorgan.

He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1972 for his dedication to British industry after he painstakingly mapped the site following the Second World War.

His son Graham, from Brackla (Near Bridgend), said

"My father started off as a miner in Pentrebach, near Methyr Tydfil, when he was 14. He quickly realised that wasn't for him so he moved to London, trained as a carpenter and started work for the original HMV record company making vaneer units. He moved to Bridgend in 1936 and began work on the Arsenal. It had 1,000 buildings and my father knew them all intimately. After the war the Arsenal was demolished and turned into an industrial estate, but because all the top secret documents detailing the land were destroyed, my father was asked to help catalogue where the pipes and foundation lay"

In the 1970s Mr Lloyd, a keen inventor and entrepreneur, developed the Bridgend / Brackla ROF factory site where he patented and developed a set of bellows for inflatable boats. He also became an associate member of the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering after a respirator he had invented saved a young girl's life.

The Royal Ordnance Factory Consisted of two parts:

1) "The Admiralty" in Waterton - where the shells were made

This part of the factory, south of Bridgend town centre, made such a vast quatity of shell casings for the Navy that the site had the nickname of the Admiralty. The completed shells were then transferred to the second part of the site known as The Arsenal" in Brackla (via rail) for filling and storage. During its peak production 40,000 people worked in the two factories making it the largest employee factory that has ever been in Britain! Most of the men in Great Britain would have been in the forces (Army, Navy, RAF), so consequently the vast quantity of this work force would have been women,

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Main Entrance

Photo profile is left of right photo heading towards Coity and The Arsenal

Photo profile is looking from end of Cowbridge Road towards Coychurch
   


Tremains Holt Railway Station
Outside the main ROF entrance.

Workers arriving at Tremains Holt Railway platform just outside Bridgend Main Railway Station

Workers arriving for work

This is today the main entrance to the South Wales Police Head Quarters (Cowbridge Road)

Buses waiting to transport workers. Spot the chimney in the top right hand corner ? This can be seen in the Waterton Aerial photo taken by the RAF (See next page)
Workers leave for their homes in Aberwynfi & Ferndale

The main entrance to the ROF Factory 53 known as the "Admiralty".
Today, this is site of South Wales Police Headquarters.
This photo was taken 10th April 2015, prior to massive redevelopment in which an additional floor was added.


1940 Ratner Safe
which is still in the admin block today !
Inside door of the safe has salaries
7th September 1943 - Salary !

Note the high earth walls. These were intended to prevent a "domino effect" should there be an explosion in one of the buildings.
Making small shell rounds

The reason for the photo is unknown, but this is a photo of what appears to be a meeting in the canteen of The Arsenal

Photo Courtesy of: Ms Connie Thomas

This sign was placed on the wall in the factory main building (above)
and informs people of the different air raid siren noises and their meaning

An original fire hydrant
still in place today

The sale of the Admiralty site sold to Abril Corporation

2) "The Arsenal" in Brackla - where the shells were completed and stored

This ROF factory, north east of Bridgend, received the shell cases from "The Admiralty" factory, filled them with ammuntion and stored them in vast underground chambers. The women in this part of the factory had no rubber gloves to protect them from the cordite and over time their hands got stained a yellow colour which gave them the nickname of "Canaries". Incredulously, some of the women would rub the cordite in their hair to blonde it !!


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Canaries putting the finishing touches to the shells.
The shell tip colour denoted the firing piece - Artillery, tank, Ship, Plane etc

View Of The Arsenal & Coity Village
View Of The Arsenal and Simonston Rear Entrance
View of The Rear Of the Arsenal Showing Canteen Area


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The security office for the factory next
to the cordite producing "F" site
One of many existing pill-boxes
along the ridge above the site
The remains of a shop in the "F" site
cordite factory

 

Plan, Showing Chamber 5, 6 & 7 in same orientation as photo to the right
The ammunition and filled shells were stored in large underground heated chambers (my grandfather worked as a boilerman during the nights) and these chambers were often referred, locally, as the Eight X's. Two of these was maintained up until recently (until the end of the Cold War) as a nuclear bunker. Each exit entered the hill from the left as you look at the photo  The RGHQ mast can be seen to the left of the picture and the vent for 8x2 can just be made out slightly below it.

8x7 was totally demolished.

8x6 & 8x5 still exist, but the iron rings which were used to support the construction were salvaged for scrap sometime after its closure, thus making them extremely unstable. The ground is water-logged shale.

8x4 & 8x3 were converted into SRHQ 8.2 in the 1950's. Later becoming RGHQ 8.2. (Nuclear Bunker)

8x1 & 8x2 were of concrete construction and too small for the SRHQ so they have been untouched. The entrances have been covered, but  still exist below ground
.

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Entrance to Chamber Number 8x1
Entrance to Chamber Number 8x1
Entrance to Chamber Number 8x1
Entrance to Chamber Number 8x2
Railway track leading into 8x1 and 8x2
8 x 3 Entrance Secured Chamber
Used as a Nuclear Bunker
Entrance to Chamber Number 8x7

 

 

Memorial to the workers killed during accidents within the factory

 

Further aerial photos of the factory taken by the Luftwaffe and the RAF can be viewed on the next page !

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