Thursday 19 January 2017

January 2017 marks the Centenary of the Silvertown Munitions Factory explosion

When she was growing up, our Mother lived with her Mother and Brother in Eltham during The First World War.  Mother and Uncle often spoke about the Silvertown factory explosion in January 1917. They told me that the windows of houses were blown out - even as far as The Savoy Hotel in the centre of London - and the air was filled with burning paper.

The Silvertown Factory was built in Silvertown, West Ham, Essex in 1883 for the manufacture of soda crystals and caustic soda.  The ending of the production of caustic soda in 1912 left part of the factory idle.   In 1916, due to the shortage of shells in the British Army, the War Office took over the available part of the factory to purify the explosive TNT.

On Friday, 19th January 1917, a fire broke out at around 6 pm which, in spite of efforts to extinguish it, caused explosions the effect of which was felt for miles around. 73 people were killed, more than 400 injured and thousands left homeless.