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The Story of the
Holton Heath, Dorset, UK
Royal Naval Cordite Factory

People Who Worked at RNCF

The establishment of a major manufactory on a sparsely inhabited heathland was the gathering of the people to staff it. Fortunately there were towns nearby and means of access were available by road and rail.
Initially the core staff were deployed from the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey where Cordite had been made for 20 years. However, these were few in number and an early start was made recruiting and sending people to Waltham Abbey for training. A similar process took place 25 years later when the Royal Naval Propellant Factory was established in Caerwent and Holton Heath, in its turn, provided staff and training.
Employees were drawn from a radius of some 20 miles, as far as Christchurch, Swanage and Blandford. This involved serious transport problems (see Transport) as almost all relied on public transport or cycling or, for a few locals, walking. However the biggest industrial complex in Dorset at the time successfully obtained its staff; up to 2500 in WWI and no less than 4500 in WWII. In the inter-war period, of course, the numbers were reduced substantially.  
By Dr Bob Dukes
The Holton Heath Site
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