Centenary of munitions factory explosion remembered

A memorial and thanksgiving service to mark the centenary of an explosion at Low Moor Munitions Company near Bradford which claimed 40 lives and seriously injured 60 others will be held this Sunday at St Paul’s Church in Birkenshaw.

A fire broke out at the munitions factory in New Works Road on August 21 1916 –the  height of the Battle of the Somme. Mystery still surrounds the cause of the fire – it was blamed on the use of picric acid there. There were more than 20 explosions. Fifteen firemen and three officers attended from nearby Odsal and Bradford but they were engulfed in fire. Five firemen and one officer from the original Bradford Fire Brigade died. Many others were seriously injured.

This Sunday, 100 years on, West Yorkshire Fire Service chiefs are planning to rededicate a plaque which is placed on a statue of a fireman at the Service’s headquarters in Birkenshaw following a service at St Paul’s Birkenshaw, led by the Revd Danny Walker.

Danny is chaplain to the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and he said: “St Paul's will be holding a special Thanksgiving Service for the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. This is a chance for anyone to come along and say thank you to the brave men and women who keep us safe and are always there for us when we need help.”

The plaque commemorates the six fire officers  who died in the explosion: station officer Charles Sugden, 44, and firemen Knighton Pridmore, 46, Fred Normington, 38, Eli Buckley, 29, Edgar Shaw, 24, and Joseph Binns, 28.

Deputy chief fire officer Dave Walton said: “It is hard for us today, with the benefit of modern protective clothing and firefighting equipment, to imagine how terrifying it must have been to attend a scene as dangerous as this one would have been.

“These men did not turn away from their duty and even once injured they persisted in their endeavour to help others.

“Some paid the ultimate price that day and we as fellow firefighters would like to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with members of the public connected to them to rededicate our memorial on the centenary of the disaster.”

Thanksgiving Service for The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service at St Pauls at 10.30am on Sunday (21st) followed by a rededication of the memorial at 12 noon.

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