THE Second World War saw Bootle, Eskmeals, Drigg and Sellafield play an important part in the production and testing of munitions - and in the explosives they contained.

How "Cumbria's Explosive Coast" helped win the war was explained in a talk to Drigg History Group by Evening Mail Memories Page writer Bill Myers.

New Royal Ordnance factories at Drigg and Sellafield made the high explosive TNT using a variety of potetntial dangerous chemical processes.

TNT was first prepared in 1863 by the German chemist Joseph Wilbrand as a yellow dye.

It wasn’t used in German artillery shells until 1902 – and in British ones from 1907.

The growing threat posed by German leader Adolf Hitler saw employment at shell filling factories rise from 800 at just two sites in 1936 to 150,000 at 20 factories at the height of production in 1943.

By the end of the war TNT was being put into “Grand Slam” bombs of up to 22,000lb, or 9,979kg.

Construction workers were recruited from places such as Whitehaven and Cleator Moor and brought in by train and special buses.

Hostels were arranged for construction workers – and later the production workers – who had come from further afield.

At the peak of labour need in 1941 and 1942 – when both construction and production was taking place – a temporary camp next to Nethertown railway station provided space for 500 building workers.

Every spare room in villages such as Seascale would have been taken by workers at ROF Drigg and Sellafield.

An annex to the Scawfell Hotel at Seascale housed some workers and up to to 50 chemists and engineers lived at Irton Hall.

The explosives factories at Drigg and Sellafield together employed 3,000 people and from the middle of 1942 women workers played an increasingly important role.

Construction work at ROF Drigg - later a low level nuclear waste repository - started in 1940.

The building work needed 4,000 workers and is said to have cost £2.5 million.

Production was underway by April 1941 and the site reached its production target of 400 tonnes per week by the end of the year.

Building work was started at ROF Sellafield in early 1942 by John Laing and Son.

Production of TNT explosives started in March 1943.

Courtaulds took over the site as a possible factory after the war but the Ministry of Supply took it back as a site for plutonium production for the British nuclear weapons programme.

The Second World War also saw extensive testing on gun barrels and munitions at Eskmeals - the gun range run by Vickers at Barrow - while shells were filled at Hycemoor, near Bootle railway station.