Women workers breaking up a heap of nitre, Dornock, Scotland, 1918.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Women workers preparing nitre to be taken to the Gretna munitions factory. A huge cordite explosive factory was built at Gretna in 1915, providing employment for over 9000 women during World War I. The nearby township built to house the munitions workers was the first new town to be planned and sponsored by the government in Britain. A large proportion of what would normally have been the male working population was involved in fighting at the front during the war. This, together with the huge demand for munitions meant that Britain's women had to be mobilised for work in armaments factories. Although shifts were long and conditions harsh and potentially dangerous, the wages available made work in the munitions factories an attractive proposition for many.