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Low Moor Explosion 1916

[Image] On August 21st.1916 when the eyes of the world were concentrated on the titanic struggle in the Somme Valley, there occurred at Low Moor, Bradford, one of the most awful industrial disasters ever in this country. It took place at the premises of the Low Moor Munitions Company, formerly the Low Moor Chemical Company, situated at the bottom of New Works Road, where picric acid, used in the making of high explosives, was being manufactured in large quantities.Efforts were made by the works fire brigade to bring a fire under control, but to no avail. The first of the Bradford firemen to arrive came from Odsal station and were later joined by 18 men from Central. A tremendous explosion occurred which blew them completely off the engine and, in the words of Chief Officer Scott, " within half an hour of turning out to the fire, all 18 men were in the infirmary or killed ". Explosions, large and small occurred at frequent intervals, each scattering blazing debris in all directions, and gradually the whole works were destroyed.At the adjoining North Bierley Works in Cleckheaton Road, a large gasometer containing 270,000 cubic feet of gas was ruptured by falling debris. The escaping gas quickly ignited and the heat could be felt almost a mile away. In the nearby railway sidings almost 30 carriages and wagons were destroyed and 100 seriously damaged.Damge to surrounding areas was extensive, with broken windows in all houses and shops for 2 miles around. Roofs were badly damaged, ceilings brought down and doors were broken, so that for several days, people could not live in their houses and were forced to camp out in neighbouring fields or live with relatives. Some properties were completely demolished by the blast and 29 houses in First Street were erected in 1919 to replace these. One thing which one eye witness recalls was the number of dogs running away in all directions, later to be found as far away as Wakefield, Huddersfield and Halifax. The official casualty figures given were - 34 people killed and 60 injured. These figures applied only to the works, but outside the works, many more were injured by flying glass and debris. 

The " Hayhurst " fire engine. This machine was the first to attend the scene and shortly after it's arrival, was totally wrecked by an enormous explosion. Of the crew, 6 were killed outright and 12 were seriously injured.

                                                        The wrecked "
Hayhurst "


A monument in honour of six firefighters who lost their lives at the Low Moor munitions works during the First World War has arrived at its new home at the brigade’s Birkenshaw HQ. The statue was erected at the site of their graves in Scholemoor Cemetery but over time suffered deterioration and damage. The campaign to re-locate the monument to a safer and more prominent position at fire HQ began 12 months ago and was backed by a huge fund-raising drive. "The campaign to save the Scholemoor statue from falling into total disrepair galvanised the whole West Yorkshire Brigade," explained Deputy Chief Fire Officer Kevin Arbuthnot. More than £25,000 was needed to re-locate and refurbish the monument and carry out renovations to the actual graves at Scholemoor. The fund-raising target was met before Christmas 2005 from a host of events, including a 274-mile cycle challenge. The firefighters’ memories will be better honoured by the new prominence and location of their well-deserved monument, and that the brigade will have a focus for future remembrance ceremonies."



Below left an image as the Funeral Passes Bradford Fire Station on it's way to Scholemoor Cemetery

Above right Funeral passes through the City centre

This picture of the wounded survivors of the Blast was sent in by Andrew Cousens, Thomas Cousens pictured here was Andrew's Great Grandad. Further contact with Mr. Brian Metcalfe confirms an error in the above picture. The man with the bandaged head on the front row, should be named Bill Anslow and not Hanson.

These Images are of Thomas Cousens, pictured here in charge of Bradford City Fire Brigades first motorised Fire Appliance. He was Bradford's first fire engine driver.
He had to take his driving licence before Bradford could have a fire engine , so he could drive it from London to Bradford . His licence No 339 in the UK.
Many Thanks to Andrew for these pictures and interesting account, which gives a real life feel to something that happened so long ago.

[Image]The Fire Brigade Medal awarded to the Firemen

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