In Times of War

Frome on Front Line

TIMES OF WAR
At the outbreak of war in 1914 the Government requisitioned Singers to make munitions. The first contract was for racks for cordite for Nobel’s factory in South Wales. A little later they were asked to make cast brass bars for machining into fuse bodies which were 6 feet long and 1ft 6 inches in diameter, nose brushes, shrapnel sockets and parts of aeroplane engines.

Between July 1915 and December 1918 the firm made
1,600,000 shell cases
Over 71,500,000 0.303 cartridge cases
with total production of all brass, bronze and gun metal items using 23,400 tons of metal.
Put another way Singers made
2,320,652 fuse body stampings
166,474 nose body stampings
1,702,835 other items

Experiments were carried out to stamp fuse bodies under drop hammers, which were most satisfactory, The Cork Street Foundry was extended in 1915 to cope with the extra output of cast brass bars, of which 23,409 tons were produced in three years. The old Market Hall (now the Cheese and Grain – visible through the back window of the Museum) was acquired in 1915 for the production of cast brass billets for cartridge metal. By 1918 the work force had reached a peak of 700 men and women. This was the first time women had been employed, there being so many men serving in the forces.
Accidents were inevitable. In 1917 a serious accident occurred as the result of which Miss Eva Sheat, eldest daughter of Mr & Mrs H.T. Sheat, caretaker at Zion Chapel, lost all the fingers of her right hand, as well as seriously injuring the thumb, while engaged in cutting brass bars at a circular saw. She was at once taken to the Victoria Hospital, where her injuries were attended by Doctors Harris and Seddon, after which she made satisfactory progress.

In March 1918 Miss Knight, engaged on a clipping machine, had one of her fingers severed. After the war the returning men wanted their jobs back of course. Pre-war production was resumed but for 8 years the demand for war memorials kept the firm busy.

During the Second World War the company was again directed to war work. The old gas works in Welshmill were taken over in 1940 for the production of cast brass rods for producing fuse body pressings. It was handed back in 1945.

HOT METAL PRESSING
In 1927 J.W.SINGER & SONS LTD. concentrated on hot metal pressing in non-ferrous metal. Pressings are made from metal heated to the ‘plastic’, or viable, state and then squeezed to the desired shape by heavy pressure, without the repeated hammering associated with forging or stamping. By 1932 the firm had one of the largest plants in the country engaged in the production of hot brass, manganese, bronze and copper according to an article of December 1932 by an employee in THE METAL INDUSTRY magazine.
He wrote – “Broadly stated, this comprises foundry saws, heating furnaces, presses, clipping machines, turret lathes, and acid dipping tanks, all of which are directly used an the pressings. In addition , a well equipped die shop is essential, since die making is, in fact, the key process. Whereas at the beginning the ordinary lathe and shaping machine used to suffice, it is now necessary to have more intricate machinery for profiting, universal vertical and horizontal milling, with radial arm movements. Small and delicate tools, electrically driven, are used by hand for trimming and finishing the dies and burnishing them.

To cover the production of all kinds of pressings, it is necessary to have presses capable of exerting pressures varying between 25 and 250 tons, and two different types are also required, the friction driven or screw type, and the positive or crank driven type. The heavy presses have to be firmly fixed to concrete beds.”

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