Chilwell Shell Filling Factory Explosion

It's the forgotten tragedy in which 134 Nottingham workers were killed, and dozens more injured.

It was also Britain's worst ever disaster involving an explosion.

Although it happened more than 80 years ago, it's a tragedy that continues to haunt relatives of the victims.

The Chilwell ammunition factory blast was the biggest loss of life during a single explosion during the First World War. Amazingly it was a tragedy that was kept secret at the time.

Please accept my sincere sympathy with you all in the misfortune that has overtaken your fine Factory and in the loss of valuable lives, those who have perished have died at their stations on the field of duty and those who have lost their dear ones should fortify themselves with this thought, the courage and spirit shown by all concerned both men and women command our admiration, and the decision to which you have all come to carry on without a break is worthy of the spirit which animates our soldiers in the field. I trust the injured are receiving every care.”

— Winston Churchill, in a telegram to the factory workers

On 1st July 1918 Chilwell was going through a heatwave--it was hot and sunny,and inside the factory, work was continuing around the clock, as it had been for weeks--12-hour shifts were usual. Shift had finished and the night shift was just starting at 6pm and people were walking home when there was a huge explosion which sounded like a bomb going off. It is the worst disaster with explosives that this country has ever seen. 134 people were killed and hundreds were injured. Many bodies were not found, and a mass grave was dug at Attenborough Church.