Nobel's, Linlithgow (1915-1916)
In January 1915 Nobel’s was granted permission to build on land known as Captain’s Park. The pressure for increased production necessitated enlargement of the factory and would provide considerable additional employment in the district.
In March 1915 the female workers at the Regent Factory, Linlithgow, went on strike following a demand for a wage increase of a halfpenny an hour. The management had already agreed to meet the women to discuss the situation, but about 200 of the female workforce took action and marched along the High Street. The management later proposed an increase of 2/- per week and this was accepted. Although it was good for the girls to have a pay increase, there those who thought that going on strike was wrong.
Producing the amount of weapons and ammunition needed by the armed forces presented difficulties for the British munitions industry early in the war. This ‘shell crisis’ resulted in the Munitions of War Act 1915, which gave extensive powers to the Ministry of Munitions (under David Lloyd George) to regulate wages, hours and employment conditions in munitions factories. Strikes were outlawed.
As the war continued, more and more men went off to the forces. Male labour was in short supply so the Ministry encouraged the factories to employ more women. Replacing male employees with females was referred to as 'substitution', and it caused concern particularly within Trade Unions.
By August 1915 the factory extension, practically doubling the size of the Regent factory, had almost been completed. The workforce of about 100 men and 200 women would almost double. The factory manufactured strum, a rope-like fuse with a black powder core and, for some time past, the employees had been working overtime up to 9 o’clock at night. A further extension was needed in early 1916.
Conscription was introduced in January 1916: every able-bodied young man, with the exception of those in reserved occupations, was obliged to join the forces. Munitions workers such as those at Nobel’s were exempt but some ancillary workers were not, and their calling up caused difficulties.
The demand for munitions was ever increasing and since the outbreak of war, the workforce had more than doubled. Sunday working was still controversial, but became common, and a night shift was introduced. Despite their long hours, the Nobel workers continued to raise large sums of money for war charities.
For more about Nobel’s in 1915 and 1916, see the documents below.