Sheffield was an important centre for supplying the nation’s war machine. This wasn’t restricted to World War One, for the city had been developing and supplying arms and armour plate for over a half a century before.
Within a year of World War One starting it became clear that there was an acute shortage of munitions (weapons and ammunition), exacerbated by the large numbers of male factory workers who had left the factories and enlisted. The solution was to create a war-based economy. The Munitions of War Act gave munitions factories and related industries priority over non-essential work and production lines were switched to munitions production. Between June 1915 and November 1918 a number of national (and local) factories came under the control of the Ministry of Munitions.
Sheffield steel was used to make a range of armaments, from bayonets and guns to heavy naval shells, as well as defensive products such as helmets and armour plate. Sheffield’s steel companies experienced major growth during the war resulting in a significant increase in the industrial labour force. By 1915 over 5,000 women were employed at Thomas Firth and Son’s National Projectile Factory at Templeborough. (Firth's produced over 4 million shells and 2 million steel helmets). Hadfield’s had a workforce of over 15,000 by the time the war ended and was Sheffield’s largest employer. New lodgings were built in the manufacturing areas to accommodate the influx of workers - huts on Tyler Street, Petre Street and at Tinsley were built in 1916 for the Ministry of Munitions.
The document below lists the main sources available at Sheffield Archives & Local Studies which can be used to investigate Sheffield's role in the armaments industry between 1900 - 1918.
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