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Report - ROF Bridgwater, August 2015

Discussion in 'Military Sites' started by The Queen, Aug 29, 2015.

  1. The Queen

    The Queen Super Duper Moderator
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    So, let us begin with a particularly miserable August Saturday.

    It was overcast and only just not raining, even the birds couldn't be bothered to sing.

    "What shall we do today?" we asked.

    The initial choices were dismal- grocery shopping, housework, paint the bathroom, or stay in bed and watch "Saturday Kitchen" et al.
    None of these options were very appealing, so after 3 coffees (and "Saturday Kitchen") we decided to go get a Mexican Burger and a pint of Devil's in a popular pub chain that rhymes with "Leather Goons".
    Then we went for an aimless drive out.

    Ended up at This Place (history blatantly stolen from Wikipedia).


    "Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) Bridgwater was a factory between the villages of Puriton and Woolavington in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, UK that produced high explosives for munitions. It was slightly above sea level, between the 5 and 10 metre contour lines on Ordnance Survey maps. BAE Systems closed it when decommissioning was completed in July 2008.


    History


    It was constructed early in World War II for the Ministry of Supply, with the Ministry of Works as Agents. It was designed as an Explosive ROF to produce RDX, a new experimental high-explosive developed at the RGPF Waltham Abbey. Construction work started in 1939 and it opened in 1941.

    On 29 June 1951 an explosion killed six men. No cause was ever identified.

    It was also known as "ROF 37", a name that was reflected in its sports and social association, the "37 Club", just outside the perimeter fence.


    Infrastructure

    As munitions production needed a guaranteed year-round clean water supply of several million gallons per day, the site was ideal, being able to obtain supplies from the water-logged Somerset Levels:
    The artificial Huntspill River, dug during construction;

    The King's Sedgemoor Drain, widened at the same time;

    Water that accumulated due to the high water table in the "Borrow Pits", dug to produce traverses around the explosive magazines.

    Both the waterways are now an integral part of the drainage system of the Somerset Levels.


    The factory was essentially self-supporting other than for raw materials. It generated high-pressure steam for heating and production processes using its own coal-fired power station; it could also produce electricity using a steam turbine. During World War II before the National Grid was fully developed, it was connected to two independent power stations, Portishead (now demolished) and Shepton Mallet.

    Between 1940 and 1941 housing for workers was built as "pre-fabs" in the adjacent village of Woolavington. Hostels for single workers were built at nearby Dunball, by the King's Sedgemoor Drain.

    The site was guarded until shortly after privatisation by the MoD Police, which had its barracks and canteen opposite the main gates. These have long since been demolished. Three brick MoD Police houses are still in use on the Woolavington Road, but they are no longer occupied by the police.

    The factory was connected to the Great Western Railway (GWR) by a private, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge branch line and sidings with its own locomotive. This was used both for supplies, such as acid in tanker wagons from ICI and coal for the power station, and for distribution of the finished product.

    A bridge was built in the early 1970s to carry the line over the M5 motorway, just north of junction 23, when the M5 was extended southwards from the M50. The line became disused after the privatisation of the ROFs and the track has been lifted. The British Rail sidings were known as Huntspill (Puriton).


    Production

    During the construction period it appears that the decision was made to fill munitions, including the bouncing bomb, with a mixture of TNT and RDX rather than RDX alone. The factory manufactured RDX in two separate production units, then sent to Filling Factories such as ROF Chorley and ROF Glascoed for filling into munitions. It also concentrated and re-cycled its own sulphuric acid.

    Like all ROFs at the time, the factory was a production factory: formulation of explosives, propellants and munitions was carried out at separate government-owned research and development establishments such as the Research Department, initially at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich and then Fort Halstead; and at PERME Waltham Abbey, later transferred to RARDE Fort Halstead. After privatisation Royal Ordnance PLC took over some of this capability, other parts being closed or becoming part of QinetiQ.


    Post World War II

    During the slack period between 1945 and the Korean War the factory and ROF Chorley and ROF Glascoed built two-storey pre-fabricated concrete houses.

    Post War concrete post and beam, factory-built Airey semi-detached House of the type made in the ROFs.


    Additional capability

    Production of the new high explosive HMX was added in 1955.

    In the 1960s and 1970s, the factory started producing plastic rocket propellant with ammonium perchlorate and poly-isobutylene rubber as two of its main ingredients.

    Trinitrotoluene (TNT) manufacture was added in 1980.


    Privatisation

    Royal Ordnance factories were privatised on 2 January 1985 and became part of the Explosive Division of Royal Ordnance Plc, later RO Defence. RO Defence was acquired by BAE Systems in the 1990s and was subsumed into BAE Systems Land Systems. The factory closed in July 2008."



    Truth is we've been past many times before and only seen diggers & piles of smashed brick.
    So if you're expecting epicness from the many buildings portrayed here-

    1712666_0_1.jpg

    Forget it, it's nearly all gone.
    What's left?

    Plenty of this-

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    And cows. Not ordinary cows, but those nasty tramply fucking French cows of the Charolais type, I believe.

    IMG_6477.JPG

    Roughly half an hour into our wander across the remains of the site, the heavens opened and we bee-lined to a possible shelter in the shape of a transformer unit (pics following) and we passed a group of these cows. They ran off when they saw us, nothing worrying about that- but then, hearing/feeling the ground rumbling, I looked up- The fuckers had re-grouped and were stampeding directly towards us, en-masse.
    "Just keep moving, just keep moving, don't look at them, just keep moving, DON'T PANIC!"
    Then I heard the sound of skidding hooves on mud- A 3-foot deep ditch and a single-stranded electric fence had halted the thundering mass of steaming hulks from squishing us into the cracks in the tarmac.

    So we arrived at this building-

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    And inside were things to photograph :)

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    Moving on we saw another building.

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    And inside? That made up for the near-trampling and being wet through from the shitty "summer" weather :)

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    boom!-001.jpg IMG_6462.JPG

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    I've been the Queen, Thanks for watching :)

    Yer Maj x
     
    #1 The Queen, Aug 29, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015

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  2. norfolkexplorer

    norfolkexplorer av u seen my marbels
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    Spot on :)
     
    oldiesDJ likes this.
  3. canute

    canute 货车司机和国王
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    Lots to brighten up a soggy day there :thumb
     
  4. Speed

    Speed Got Epic?
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    Your right, it does look interesting :)
     
  5. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Looks an interesting stroll :thumb

    History from Wikipedia by.any chance ;)
     
    The Queen likes this.
  6. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Bang on that is. Good to see something new in the South West as well.
     
  7. Styru

    Styru Admin
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    Yup, 'twas a nice little wander this :thumb
     
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  8. Lectrician

    Lectrician LED Crazy
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    Even the outside raw concrete is enticing :-)
     
  9. PurgeMCR

    PurgeMCR 28DL Full Member
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    Nice Work:thumb
     
  10. Bolts

    Bolts 28DL Regular User
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    Looks interesting :thumb bet this was a good wander, apart from the cows...
     
  11. Incognito

    Incognito Just Reckless.
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    nice find
     
  12. Styru

    Styru Admin
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    Well it does say "History stolen from wikipedia" in the report.
     
  13. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Lets say it's been edited very nicely since I made my observation, was still good before hand :thumb
     
    The Queen likes this.
  14. Tommy1uk

    Tommy1uk 28DL Member
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    Nice :) My Nan worked on site during the war, and know a (now retired), fella that was there until the end.
     
  15. oldiesDJ

    oldiesDJ 28DL Full Member
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    Good Job your Maj' :-) I very nearly got a job down there, glad it fell through now..all those explosives..no thanks! Thanks for the info too. I wasn't aware The Huntspill was dug specifically for the ROF. Fished it a few times too. Well done, TY again :)
     
    The devil child likes this.
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