Many engineers were not allowed to sign up to the forces as they were deemed indispensable and instead they supported the war from home. The increased need for munitions and related items meant a new workforce was needed, both to meet demand and because many men had gone to war; women formed the core of this.

Home Forces

Harry Stephenson Ellis served with No. 3 Signals Section of the Durham Royal Engineers Volunteer Home Force. However, he had originally requested foreign service. Ellis wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Walsh to request leave from his position as Borough Electrical Engineer in South Shields to join the Royal Engineers. The request was refused as Ellis’s work as a skilled electrical engineer at home was recognised as being of more use to the war effort than joining the ranks of the Royal Engineers:

“…I have come to the conclusion that you really have absolutely no business or right to leave the important post which you are now holding".

To dissuade him from joining the Royal Engineers in France, Walsh then suggested he enrol in the Volunteer Corps. Ellis did not give up easily and applied in 1916 for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. Although not yet on active service, Major General Shaw (Home Forces) described in May 1916 how Ellis’s method of painting street lamps was favourably received by the Field Marshall; he sent drawings on how to minimise white light on the ground produced by arc lamps. By April 1917 Ellis had finally offered his services as a National Service Volunteer:

“Your offer has been recorded, but in view of the nature of your occupation it can only be considered after dealing with the offers of men engaged in work of less essential importance.”

Ellis did not give up; such was his patriotism and desire to enlist, even though he now accepted this would be on the home front and November 1917 Ellis had succeeded to join the war effort. He was accepted as a Lieutenant in the Volunteer Force, County of Durham Volunteer Engineers, exactly two years after his initial request. He was the commanding officer for No.3 Signals Section of the Durham Royal Engineers Volunteer Corps. In May 1919, he received orders for the disbandment of the Volunteer Force and the re-opening of the Territorial Force. He was in command of checking all remaining stores and the accommodation at the Drill Hall.

“I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that in recognition of your services as an officer of the Volunteer Force in the Durham Royal Engineers (V.) you have been granted the Honorary Rank of Lieutenant…I am to take this opportunity of conveying the thanks of the Army council for your services to the Country during the Great War, and for the excellent work you have done.”

Ellis left Durham in 1919 to take up employment as Borough Electrical Engineer in Southampton. His story highlights how engineers who remained on the home front, continuing their work, helped the war effort. Despite pressure to fight many had to remain in post at home as their occupation was so skilled it could not be replicated by another. It was also important that their expertise was used to remain ahead of the enemy and not to give them the advantage in warfare.

NAEST 155 03 114 Photograph of Lt Ellis
Photograph of Ellis in the Royal Engineer Signals. Read his biography in Resources.

NAEST 155 03 06 Volunteer Force certificate
Printed certificate for appointment to Volunteer Force.

Munitions

War brought with it a huge increase in demand for munitions, at the same time the workforce was reduced by men signing up. By 1918, almost a million women were employed in munitions and engineering works, with 80% of shells being made by women by 1917: in the decade before only 212,000 had been employed in these areas. A government policy was introduced to ensure their training, ‘Dilution’.

Olive Monkhouse, Chief Woman Dilution Officer, Ministry of Munitions gave a paper on this at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a debate followed. It was accepted that when properly trained the women were in fact as good as, if not better, than the men. Men are in part credited with the programme’s success "The successful employment …in an almost equal degree to the skilled man, and the employer": the employer in selecting tasks and the man ‘using all their brains and skill’ to train, and socialise the work environment. Concerns for the women’s capabilities were very real, they had to be properly trained as soldiers lives could literally depend on it. Concerns about the reaction of the existing workforce and management were also paramount as some managers refused to believe women were capable of being fitters, tool-turners etc. Monkhouse also notes that the women "face[d] obstacles both necessary and  unnecessary"; some male staff members would tease, or even sexually harass, the women and thus their safety was a real issue; welfare also affected production and a Health of Munition Workers' Committee was formed. Practical problems such as a lack of facilities also had to be overcome, as was the fact that most of the women were not used to factory work, organisation or associated environments.

Concerns were real and practical: this was a new realm for most of the women and the concern for their welfare was uppermost. Discussion followed Monkhouse's paper, on whether these women might remain in engineering after the war and what the effects on the ‘comfort and happiness’ of their homes might be.

Michael Longridge, the President, acknowledged that Monkhouse got top billing and that she was something of a sensation and summed up the situation of women in factories as "a sign of the times".  We are told several women were in the audience and Longridge was keen for them to speak but they would not. Monkhouse was the first women to give a paper.

Press photograph of women factory workers during WW1

Press photograph of women factory workers during WW1

by User Not Found | 13 Aug, 2014

1402 comments

Leave a comment
  1. Rodolfo | Oct 09, 2018
    James Harden shoes Puma Shoes For Women North Face Jackets Adidas Yeezy Michael Kors NMD KD Shoes Soccer Cleats On Sale Vans Outlet Nike Outlet Jimmy Choo Outlet Adidas Sneakers Adidas Yeezy Pandora Jewelry Timberland Boots For Men Kyrie 3 Kate Spade Outlet Longchamp Le Pliage NMD Adidas Christian Louboutin Nike Huarache Pandora Jewelry Outlet Jordan Retro 11 KD 10 Birkenstock Birkenstock Outlet Yeezys Skechers Shoes UK Curry 4 Release Date Michael Kors Canada Jordan 11 Red Yeezy Beluga 2.0 Pandora Charms Sale Clearance Coach Outlet Store Yeezy boost 350 v2 Jordan Space Jam 11 Pandora Jewelry Nike Kyrie 3 Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Ralph Lauren Coach Outlet Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet Online Longchamp Outlet Birkenstock Shoes Air Max 90 Air Max 95 Ultra Boost Adidas Pandora Official Site Adidas Outlet Nike Cortez Nike Shoes For Men Coach Factory Outlet Pandora Jewelry KD 10 Lebron 15 Yeezys Shoes Pandora Charms Air Max 90 Birkenstock Vans Adidas Shoes For Women Christian Louboutin Shoes Lebron 15 Kate Spade Outlet Air Jordan 11 Kyrie 4 Air Max Air Force 1 Shoes Vapor Max Pandora Jewelry New Jordans Clarks Shoes Pandora Charms Outlet Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Blue Tint Louboutin Shoes Louboutin Shoes Pandora Rings Red Bottoms Shoes Pandora Rings Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet Nike Air Max 2018 James Harden shoes Kyrie Basketball Shoes Jordans 11 Moncler UK Moncler UK Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet Nike Outlet Adidas Outlet Online Pandora Charms Timberlad Boots Red Bottom Shoes For Women Goyard Handbags Kyrie Shoes Ralph Lauren Outlet Adidas NMD Pandora Bracelets Lebron Shoes Longchamp Curry Shoes Pandora Nike Air Max Nike Air Uptempo Yeezy 350 Boost Nike Vapormax Air Max Christian Louboutin Shoes Rihanna Puma Slides Yeezy Shoes North Face Jackets Clearance
  2. Robert | Oct 06, 2018
    Valentino Nike Sneakers Asics Gel Nimbus 18 Nike Clearance Pandora Necklace Women Pandora Earrings Pandora Charms Sale Clearance Timberland Outlet Store New Nike Shoes Nike Air Max 98 NMD Adidas Goyard Bags Nike Outlet Store Online Shopping Nike Outlet Store Christian Louboutin Outlet Nike Outlet Timberland Shoes Christian Louboutin Outlet Goyard Bag Balenciaga Sneakers Air Jordan Retro Air Max 270 Red Bottom Shoes Valentino Shoes Adidas Superstar Women Timberland Boots For Women Fjallraven Kanken Pandora Jewelry Official Site Yeezy Boost 500 Christian Louboutin Shoes Christian Louboutin Shoes Nike Cortez Nike Shoes For Women Fjallraven Kanken Backpack Adidas Sneakers Asics Outlet Store Adidas Lebron 16 Shoes Fjallraven Kanken Asics Shoes Nike Air Max 97 Lebron James Shoes Hermes Belts Yeezy Shoes Timberland Store Air Max 95 Valentino Shoes Yeezy 500 Hermes Bags Louboutin Outlet NMD Balenciaga Sneakers Air Max 98 Ferragamo Fila Sneakers Pandora Charms Louboutin Shoes Pandora Ring Puma Shoes Pandora Bracelets Nike Air Max 95 Skechers Sneakers Louboutin shoes Ferragamo Outlet Kevin Durant Shoes Nike Air Max 270 Men Yeezys Adidas Outlet Store Pandora Jewelry Outlet Fitflop Adidas NMDS Pandora Charm Bracelet Yeezy Pandora Jewelry Nike Running Shoes For Men Nike Air Max 270 Flyknit Pandora Jewelry Official Site Moncler Outlet Adidas Shoes Yeezy Boost Fila Disruptor ii Longchamp Outlet Pandora Charms Pandora Jewelry Ferragamo Belts Adidas Yeezy Shoes Timberland Shoes Outlet Air Max 270 Timberland Boots Vans Fila Shoes For Men Puma Shoes Asics Gel Kayano 24 Yeezy Boost 350 Adidas NMD Pandora Charms Yeezy Shoes Adidas Superstar Shoes Asics Shoes Asics Shoes KD 11 Bottega Veneta Handbags Yeezy Shoes Nike Cortez Men Adidas Yeezys Asics Outlet
  3. dsaara | Sep 25, 2018
  4. reed | Sep 25, 2018
    I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.  sizegenetics
  5. Buy Harvard Case Study Solutions | Sep 25, 2018
    Hi buddy, your blog' s design is simple and clean and i like it. Your blog posts about Online writing Help are superb. Please keep them coming. Greets!  Buy Harvard Case Study Solutions
  6. Future Work | Sep 25, 2018

    Future Work Technologies is one of the best software houses in Hamilton

  7. Future | Sep 25, 2018
    Future work technologies is one of the best <a href="https://futureworktechnologies.com/erp-crm-software-development-companies-hamilton-guelph-kitchener/">software houses in Hamilton</a>
  8. Accounting Homework Help For College Students | Sep 25, 2018
    I’m really impressed with your article, such great & usefull knowledge you mentioned here  Accounting Homework Help For College Students
  9. tushar | Sep 25, 2018
  10. pinbahis | Sep 24, 2018
    Betconstruct altyapılı Pinbahis, Asyabahis ve Sekabet güvencesi ile 2018 yılında kuruldu. Pinbahis bahis şirketi Curacao lisansı ile 2000TL hoş geldin bonusu sunmaktadır. Pinbahis
  11. Winbiz in India | Sep 24, 2018
    Audio Text SolutionsIPRN ServicesInternational Premium Rate NumbersIPRN NumbersPremium Rate NumbersPremium Rate Numbers providersIPRN informationContact us for IPRNTelefonemediaAbout Telefonemedia telefonemedia paymentTelefonemedia Team Customized Dialer Soft SwitchesVoiP billing Solutions Telefonemedia Blog Telefonemedia Contact Us Wholesale Telefonemedia About Us Wholesale Telefonemedia business wholesale sip trunkingvoip termination wholesale telefonemedia plans wholesale telefonemedia contact coating daddyspray paintbasic spray paintnormal spray paintmetallic spray paintfluorescent spray paintgold chrome basic spray painthammer finish basic sprayhigh heat effect spray painttransparent spray paintrubber spray paintbasic rubber spray paintmetallic rubber spray paintfluorescent rubber spray paintchameleon rubber spray paint exterior spray paintcleanersfoaming tyre rejuvenator spray paintsuper paint remover spraybrake parts cleanersfoam car wash shampoo engine cleanernano rinsecar polishersperfection fluidreflection fluidinterior cleanerall purpose cleanercar interior cleanerdetailing toolspolisher3 inch dual action polishersblack dual action polisherred dual action polisherpadspolishing padswoolen cutting padheavy cutting  padsmedium cutting padpolishing padbrushesdetailing brushwheel cleaning brushmicro brushsprayerselectric sprayertrolleydetailing trolleytool trolleypad washerdetailing lightsdetailing work lightdetailing pen lightdetailing accessoriesmicrofiber towelsoft microfiber towel in blackbest microfiber cloth for carsbest microfiber towel for glassbest microfiber terry towelmicrofiber apron in blackbest car wash towelsapplicatorbest soft sponge applicator padbest microfiber round applicatorelectric hose reelwash mittscar creeper seatspray can triggerelectric car jackdust maskcoatingdaddy videoscoatingdaddy dealershipKnow Linux ServersHostPreneurHostPreneur HostingLinux HostingWindows HostingHostpreneur ServersLocal StorageSSD VPS ServersDedicated ServersWeb ServicesDigital CertificateSite LockMigration ServicesWebsite ProtectionCallsVUIPRN providersInternational Premium Rate NumbersIPRN NumbersPremium Rate NumbersIPRN Numbers ProvidersGimbalmart Smartphone Camera Stabilizer iphone camera stabilizer WinbizProduct Photography360 product photography360 round tablewinbiz lightboxWireless SpeakersBluetooth SpeakersPortable Wireless SpeakersPortable Bluetooth Speakers
  12. kenny ong | Sep 24, 2018
    An unmatched and nonpareil post i have ever seen. The content is so appealing that it has created an impulse to avail Assignment Help Singapore services. 
  13. Daniel Steve | Sep 24, 2018
    After going through this blog, I got to infer many new things about the mistakes that I have been making, while writing my assignments. I never knew doing an assignment has so many dimensions to look after. TutorVersal’s’ Australian assignment help experts have made me realized the importance of referencing styles, word count and many such things. Now I won’t need to wander here and there with “do my assignment” problems anymore.
  14. sohail khatri | Sep 24, 2018
    this is such a pleasant useful resource which you are offering and you find the cash for it away for understandable. i really like seeing blog that appointment the fee of supplying a vibes useful resource for forgive. cheap essays
  15. edward fox | Sep 23, 2018

    The “Grand Theft Auto” chases, the blazing gunfights, and the audacious wrecking ball jewelry heist look cool but these scenes seem out of place in this lackluster buddy comedy. Best Hairstyle for Women Over 50

  16. Danis | Sep 23, 2018
    Hello, I found this conversation to be pretty interesting. So I thought I should add something that really interests me. I can help you in getting the best subway surfers hacks! subwaysurfershacked.com 
  17. seo | Sep 22, 2018
    Amazing article! I need individuals to know exactly how great this data is in your article. It's intriguing, convincing substance. Your perspectives are much like my own concerning this subject.  Friv 4
  18. Robinjack | Sep 22, 2018
    Really great post. I just discovered your web journal and needed to say that I have truly delighted in perusing your blog entries. Any way I'll be subscribing to your food and I trust you post again soon. Huge much obliged for the helpful information.  HMRC Tax Investigation Accountants
  19. kenny ong | Sep 22, 2018
    An unmatched and nonpareil post i have ever seen. The content is so appealing that it has created an impulse to avail Assignment Help Singapore services.
  20. ketty smith | Sep 22, 2018
    In today’s time students face the problem of stress in college. Whether it is because of social anxiety, or not being able to clear exam etc. Most of the times, students get stressed due to their piled up assignments. If it is with you also then you might look for Allassignmenthelp.com Reviews.
  21. edward fox | Sep 22, 2018
    You made some respectable points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most people will go along with with your website. usa-phonenumbers.com
  22. sohail khatri | Sep 22, 2018
    Remarkable article, it is particularly useful! I quietly began in this, and I'm becoming more acquainted with it better! Delights, keep doing more and extra impressive! Bigg Boss 12
  23. Logan | Sep 22, 2018
    I've learned a lot from this article.. I will visit your wonderful blog more often to read more updates.  fat burner pills
  24. kakbrus | Sep 22, 2018

    Thank you for posting such a great article! I found your website perfect for my needs. It contains wonderful and helpful posts. Keep up the good work!. five nights at freddy's

  25. Irene Salsabila | Sep 21, 2018
    This post that you made is very interesting to me. After reading, you turned out to be very good at writing an article. I like it very much. Good Job. Visit my site at : 

    Link Alternatif SBOBET

    Link SBOBET

    Situs Alternatif SBOBET

    Situs SBOBET

    Link SBOBET Terbaru

    Cara Daftar Link www.waasanaa.com

    Cara Bergabung Situs www.hillapple.com

    Maindulu

    Everythingwin

    560bet

  26. Lena | Sep 21, 2018
    Thank you for sharing this knowledgeable and excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. ben hogan ptx irons
  27. SEO | Sep 20, 2018
    Stunning, cool post. I'd like to compose like this as well – requiring some serious energy and genuine diligent work to make an extraordinary article… yet I put things off a lot of and never appear to begin. Much appreciated however.  Tax Enquiry Accounts
  28. Assignment Help | Sep 20, 2018
    The above post has given reliable and genuine information about Assignment Help Australia. Looking forward to avail their eminent services. 
  29. adam | Sep 20, 2018
    If you need online assignment help, dissertation help or project help, just reach out to All Assignment Experts - Assignment Help  and they will take care of everything  
  30. Lakshmi ko prasan karne ke upay | Sep 19, 2018
    Secrets of dhan prapti, Dhan parpti ke upaay, lakshmi prapti ke upaay, obstacles in dhan prapti, ... Laxmi Prapti Ke upaay in english ... Rules To Do Any Totka, Things Important In Life, Totkay For Prosperity, Best ways to increase prosperity. Lakshmi ko prasan karne ke upay
  31. Boston | Sep 18, 2018

    Your precise way of writing was incomparable. Many readers surely visit.

    we buy homes for cash austin tx

  32. Tim Holtzmann | Sep 17, 2018
    The post is written in very a good manner and it contains many useful information for me.DETECTIVES PRIVADOS MADRID
  33. Franziska Wurfel | Sep 17, 2018
    Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Extremely helpful information specially the last part I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this particular information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.DETECTIVES PRIVADOS MADRID
  34. neekoon | Sep 17, 2018
    Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. VIST HERE
  35. sohail khatri | Sep 16, 2018
    I would following to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the thesame best take leisure doings from you in the taking into account as adroitly. Thanks... draws attention
  36. Neela Devi | Sep 16, 2018
    arduino projects Latest arduino projects arduino projects 2018-2019 arduino projects bangalore arduino projects for beginners arduino projects pdf arduino projects ideas Matlab Projects Latest matlab projects ieee matlab projects ieee matlab projects for eee ieee matlab projects on image processing Matlab Projects vlsi projects  vlsi projects in bangalore  vlsi projects using cadence tool  biomedical projectsIEEE biomedical projectsbiomedical projects in bangalorebiomedical projects for ecebiomedical projects ideas mtech projects mtech projects in bangalore  mtech projects for cse  mtech projects for ecev  mtech projects vlsi mtech projects for eee mtech projects for structural engineering mtech projects on embedded systems mechanical projects2018-2019 Mechanical Projectsmechanical projects in bangaloremechanical projects for engineeringmechanical projects on agriculturemechanical projects for final year b.tech electrical mini projects Latest iot projectsiot projectsiot projects 2018-2019iot projects,iot projects for cseiot projects using raspberry pi2018-2019 raspberry pi projects Latest raspberry pi projects raspberry pi projects raspberry pi projects pdf power electronics projects ieee  power electronics projects power electronics projects for mtech power electronics projects pdf power electronics projects for engineering studentsmtech power system projects m tech power system projects m tech electrical power system projects power system projects for mtech ieee projects for mtech power system power system projects 2018-2019 power system projects for final year power system projects ieee comsol projectscomsol mems projectscomsol based projectslabview projects labview projects 2018-2019labview projects bangalore instrumentation engineering projects instrumentation engineering projects 2018 instrumentation engineering projects bangalore
  37. Ashutosh Singh | Sep 16, 2018

    Thank you so much for sharing this information, it is easy to learn while reading such articles. As, the information you provide is easy to understand and also, gives a detail explanation of the topic. I would love to read more of your articles because they provide great knowledge that no one else provides.  Quicken support phone number

    Digital Marketing Company

  38. london therapy massage | Sep 15, 2018
    I was brought up here by a mistake but I kept looking on your website and I found it amazing. nuru massage london
  39. 7terbaik | Sep 15, 2018
  40. jimmy | Sep 15, 2018
    This is my first time i visit here. I discovered such a large number of intriguing stuff in your site particularly its exchange. From the huge amounts of remarks on your articles, I figure I am not by any means the only one having all the pleasure here! keep doing awesome  http://bestbusinesscommunity.com/
  41. Franziska Wurfel | Sep 14, 2018
    ESR (Eric Schekler Réalisations) est une agence de communication globale, notre agence de propose une diversité de services professionnels allant de la conception de sites internet à la création graphique, conception d'identité visuelle, création de logos, plaquette commerciale, référencement SEO, marquage vehicule, marquage publicitaire, signaléique, Imprimerie, impression numérique, reprographie, e-mailing , Voir nos réalisations.
  42. موقع مكتبتك | Sep 13, 2018
    يتواجد لدي موقع مكتبتك الكثير من التقنيات الخدمية التي يحتاج اليها الباحثين في محتلف المجالات العلمية منها خدمة توفير الكثير من المراجع والابحثات والدراسات السابقة حتي يتمكن الباحث من دعم بحثة العلمي بصورة كافية
  43. EDWARD | Sep 13, 2018
    This is only the data I am finding all over the place. A debt of gratitude is in order for your site, I simply subscribe your site. This is a pleasant web journal..  Радислав Гандапас Киев
  44. edward fox | Sep 13, 2018
    This sort of message continually moving and I like to peruse quality substance, so upbeat to discover great spot to numerous here in the post, the composition is simply awesome, a debt of gratitude is in order for the post.  Радислав Гандапас Киев
  45. Irene Salsabila | Sep 12, 2018

    I strongly agree with the information you provide. This article motivates me even more. Of course I don't forget to thank you for this writing. Thanks. Visit my site :

    Link Alternatif SBOBET

    link alternatif sbobet

  46. Irene Salsabila | Sep 12, 2018

    I strongly agree with the information you provide. This article motivates me even more. Of course I don't forget to thank you for this writing. Thanks. Visit my site :

    Link Alternatif SBOBET

    link alternatif sbobet

  47. sohail khatri | Sep 12, 2018
    This is actually the kind of information I have been trying to find. Thank you for writing this information.925 sterling sliver bracelet
  48. 338sbobet | Sep 12, 2018
  49. Jonas | Sep 12, 2018
    Assignment Help can be taken in all engineering topics only at All Assignment Experts
  50. Jane Autin | Sep 12, 2018
    Assignment Help   should be taken only from All Assignment Experts. They are the best in online academic help industry.

    Leave a comment

    The photographs show just how varied the work that women undertook was: and the variety of new skills that therefore had to the taught and obtained. This new workforce, alongside the remaining male workers, not only delivered munitions but also worked on other weapons and in back offices and research roles. Both at home and on the Continent women worked in forestry, medicine and as drivers.

    Click here to read the full paper and discussions. Or here to read about the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield.

    Views from the Home Front

    Oliver Heaviside, seen here, became a telegraph clerk for the Anglo-Danish Telegraph Company, later the Great Northern Telegraph Company, in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1868. After 1874, he began work on a series of problems in telegraphy and signal transmission using experimentation, mathematics and vector analysis. He had long and famous disagreements with Sir William Henry Preece over the introduction of inductance to long distance communication cables to improve the transmission of signals, amongst others and was an active letter writer. Heaviside continued his correspondence with leading engineers and scientists throughout the war. They contain commentary on the war, including personal views.

    Poisonous gases were one area of debate, between Heaviside and the Oxford University lecturer Dr CV Burton. In 1915 Burton went to work in the Royal Aircraft Factory, Department H (Physics) at Farnborough; he was killed in an explosion there in 1917. His views on the use of poisonous gases offer a window into how people at home felt about aggressive methods at the front:

    “If it is merely a question of dirty tricks played on occasion, like white flag treachery, we needn’t follow the methods of the enemy; but when methods are resorted to which give an advantage to the user and may be or paramount military importance, we can’t afford to fight such a one-sided battle, whatever degree of barbarity may be involved. Don’t you agree? One needn’t be vindictive enough to choose a specially painful way when more humane means are available, but I’m afraid any gases which can be used in sufficient quantities to be effective will cause fearful suffering. We can’t help that: the alternative is to let ourselves to be beaten, because we are too considerate to fight the enemy with his own weapons; which would mean that the chlorine-fiends would rule the earth”.

    Ironically it was phosgene (used as a chemical weapon) which killed him. Burton would also share anecdotes of his wartime work and experiences:

    “One of our pilots had a thrilling adventure the other day. He started from Farnborough to take a new type of machine to the front: it is about 1 ½ hours flight. As he was nearing the French coast, in driving rain, the engine suddenly seized, the propeller smashed with the sudden stoppage, & bits of the engine flew about, some of them penetrating the wings. He could see no land, and took off his coat and waistcoat in readiness for a plunge into the foaming sea (it was very rough). Then he caught sight of a blacking object that looked like Boulogne pier & made for it;... say 120 m.p.h. The ambulance people rushed out to his assistance, but he had managed to turn up-wind, and alight in a field without further mishap.”

    Another correspondent was George Frederick Charles Searle, he informed Heaviside how Burton died:

    “Burton was killed about 15 or 16 months ago at the Royal Aircraft ’Establishment’ (late ‘Factory’). He was doing something with Phosgene, a very poisonous gas. This is easily liquefied and he had a ‘syphon’ (like a soda water syphon) of the liquid. The bottle burst (it was not at high pressure). Burton got the stuff all over him. He seemed at first as if he had just recovered but a few hours later died.” Tragically, Searle goes on to say, ‘Mrs Burton a day or two later took poison and died also.”

    Through letters we get a glimpse of how people, indirectly, involved in the war felt and saw the conflict: Burton offers a pragmatic view which may seem shocking in today's context; he also though offers a 'fun' boys own adventure story, which suggests an element of enthusiasm for the excitement of war.


    Heaviside
    Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925). Read his biography in Resources.


    Burton’s last letter to Heaviside (he died 4 weeks later) dated 30 December 1916
    Burton’s last letter to Heaviside (he died 4 weeks later) dated 30 Dec 1916.
    Credits/footnotes:

    Ellis papers and image,
    NAEST 155/3 IET Archives.

    Images:

    Factory workers, IMechE Archive except for the following used with thanks to Tyne and Wear Archive for image A7774/2 Lathe operator at Heaton Works, 1914-1918 (first in gallery) and to Imperial War Museum for images Q 30040 Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell and Q106565 Members of the Women’s Forestry Corps in Sussex.


    Heaverside portrait and letter excerpt, IET Archive.