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Munitions Disaster Handkerchief

1917

A handkerchief to raise funds for victims of the munitions factory explosion in Ashton in 1917.

1917 saw a devastating explosion at the Hooley Hill Rubber and Chemical factory in Ashton. For three years the factory had been producing the chemical TNT to make ammunition for the British soldiers fighting in the First World War.

On June 13th 1917, the mixture of chemicals had become unstable and, unable to stop the huge mixing pans boiling over, a fire broke out. The blaze quickly reached the two gasometers containing 850,000 cubic feet of gas, which threw out flames half a mile into the sky. The explosion could be heard 20 miles away.

46 people were killed, over 120 were hospitalised and hundreds more received minor injuries. Among the dead were factory workers, fire fighters and passers-by, several of them children playing in the street after school.

The Mayor of Ashton’s Relief Fund was established to raise money for those affected by the explosion. Concerts and events were organised, including a performance by George Formby Senior at the Theatre Royal.

A poem, ‘Rescue the Perishing’ was printed onto handkerchiefs and sold. There were several different designs made.