Sunday, 17th June (1917)

Got leave from 2 to 10 p.m. so went off with two bombardiers to Ashton Under Lyne to the scene of explosion.  The distance (about 6 miles) was covered by tram, one town joining another in an indistinguishable manner.  Around the destroyed factory the windows of houses and factories had been blown out of their frames and disclosed miserable-looking front parlours where you couldn’t swing a cat.  A thunder-storm came up and it rained cats and dogs.  After perching in various porches, we squeezed into a returning tram and got back to Oldham where with great difficulty we found an eating house open (unlike towns where there is a larger upper class) and had a good feed of ham and eggs, toast and fruit, 2/3.  Returned to camp about 7.30 and then strolled off into the country.  What a difference! – although probably the least typical of English country one could find.  Still, the rain had cleared the air, the fields were a soft green in the sunset and the distance was all aglow with colour.

[Note – the Ashton-under-Lyne munitions explosion was caused by a fire at the Hooley Hill Rubber and Chemical Works.  Forty-three people were killed, including 23 employees of the plant, and nine children from the surrounding area who were returning home from school.  Over 120 people were hospitalised.  The explosion devastated most of the surrounding area.  A crater of approximately 90 feet by 36 feet across and 5 feet deep was left where 5 tons of TNT had been stored.  Today a sculpture in memory of those who died can be found in Henry Square, Ashton-under-Lyne, near the swimming pool were a child was killed from falling glass when the roof was blown in.  The image below is sourced from a website dedicated to Greater Manchester in the First World War.]

Ashton Under Lyne munitions disaster

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