THE British attacks on the Hindenburg Line in September 1918 was one of the most significant battles of the First World War.

What is less known is the role a group of men and women from Banbury played in that battle, as workers in one of the country's biggest munitions factories.

When British troops faced a shortage of ammunition in the early part of 1915, the government decided to take action and ordered a series of factories to be built across the country.

One of those, the aptly-named National Filling Factory No.9, was built on the outskirts of Banbury, in the fields beyond Overthorpe Road in Grimsbury.

At its peak the shell-filling factory employed about 1,500 people - about a third were women - and produced more than four million shells for the war effort.

This year Banbury Museum are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the factory opening, with events and exhibitions manager Dale Johnston offering more information about the site.

Last year the museum also created an online video with Mr Johnston retelling the history of the factory.

Speaking to the camera he said: "Every day thousands of drivers come along the M40 motorway past Banbury not realising that right next to them was the first World War One ammunitions factory.

Building work began in January 1916, and the factory began shell filling on April 25.

At the height of the war 7,000 shells were produced each week.

During the early stages of production staff also had a visit from David Lloyd George, who would become Prime Minister at the end of the war in 1918.

The work was important but also dangerous - the filling hall had its own blast wall, which protected the area around it.

It meant that if there was an explosion all the energy would go upwards and only destroy one of the buildings at most.

For a time Banbury was a place for making chemical weapons, as the government built a second building to the south of the original for making shells filled with mustard gas.

The factory also needed to protect itself, and after German Zeppelins reached the east coast of Britain in 1915 anti-aircraft guns were installed near the site.

Even without gunfire and bombs being dropped though, woman working at the factory also reported that they had found their skin turning yellow after handling picric acid.

Some children of workers even suffered the same problem - known as "canary babies" - although it did not last long after birth.

After the war ended in 1918 the site was mothballed.

But it was reopened between 1919 and 1924 to break down surplus war ammunition.

By the early 1930s the place had been stripped of its machinery and was being used as a training area for the Home Guard.

Today the land is protected as a conservation area, although parts of the original factory - including ridges and tunnels - are still visible.

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