Olive was born on the 29th August 1899 in Harrogate. The 1911 census shows Olive living at home with parents George and Miriam, and baby brother George (aged 1). Other than she would gain employment at Barnbow Munitions Factory little is known of her life.
Barnbow Munitions Factory, at Crossgates Leeds, was one of the new purpose built munitions factories to meet the demand for shells and ammunition. The factory was operational by December 1915, so it would have probably been around that time or shortly after that Olive started work there. It was a huge complex and at peak output was employing about 16,000 workers. The local train station was extended and would bring in workers from the surrounding towns and villages. It even had a farm producing 300 gallons of milk per day, with employees receiving a free daily milk ration.
Munitions work was dangerous. Barnbow ran 3 shifts a day and involved hard manual work involving the use of heavy machinery. Most of the workforce was women and young girls, attracted by the high wages on offer. Conditions at the factory were very hot, the raw materials toxic which would turn their skin and hair yellow in a short time. This led to the nickname ‘The Barnbow Canaries’. The uniforms offered inadequate protection against the dust which could prove deadly if settling in the lungs, even though masks were provided.
Olive worked in Room 42, as one of about 170 workers, where the fully loaded shells were brought to have a fuse fitted and the cap tightened by machine. At 10.27 pm, shortly after the evening shift began on Tuesday 5th December 1916, a violent explosion occurred. Thirty five women and girls were killed outright, including Olive. Many were maimed.
The incident was heavily censored and the full details were not published until 1925. However, it highlights the dangers that women had to endure in supporting the war effort.
The site of the factory was given Heritage Protection status in honour of the women who gave their lives.
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2nd Lieutenant Arthur F Clarke was attending the 5th Battalion annual camp in Wales when war broke out. He spent the first months of the war moving between Scarborough, Hull, Newcastle, Hartlepool and Darlington. On the 18th April 1915 he went out to France and was wounded during a gas attack on the 26th May 1915. The Green Howards Gazette records: “The day seemed interminable as the poor shelter had to be hugged tight all the time. With darkness came the order that we were to pass through GHQ lines and take up a front line position in Zouave Wood facing Hooge, where the main attack by the enemy had been made. That little strip of ground has since been the cockpit of our Western front. On our journey up another man was killed, and Lieutenant A F Clarke was wounded. That tour was destined to be the worst we had so far entered upon.” We know he returned to the front line as the Green Howard Gazette for January 1916 records that he was wounded. He rose to the rank of Captain in November 1916.
Submitted by Josephine Parker. My Grandfather, Owen Thompson served in The Northamptonshire Regiment, he trained new recruits during the First World War. During the war he served in Egypt and Gallipoli. He continued this role despite contracting Malaria.
Submitted by Mavis Marwood a resident of Richmond for the last 10 years. Private Joseph Snowden Atkinson (204103) was my grandfather. He was born in Gainford and lived in Ravensworth. Like his father his occupation was as a stonemason. He served in France during the war and was one of the lucky soldiers to survive the conflict. One of the images is a handmade Christmas card that he sent from the front line to my mother when she was little girl. On his return to Ravensworth he went on to become a master stonemason.