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The 1924 Slade Green Factory Explosion

On Monday February the 18th 1924, 12 young women and girls and one male foreman, Edward Jones of Dalmain Road, Forest Hill, were killed while dismantling Verey Light cartridges on Slades Green Marshes. 

The factory of W V Gilbert had been contracted by the Government to dismantle and empty Verey Light cartridges, which were used during World War I by soldiers in the trenches to send signals and light up No Man’s Land between the opposing trenches. The work entailed opening the cartridges with a brass tool, emptying the explosive, which the girls called the powder, this was then pushed through a hatch into a separate part of the shed.

On Monday the 18th February 1924, 26 girls and Edward started work at 8am, a new girl started that day and was being shown how to dismantle the cartridges.

At around 8.45am a cartridge ignited, there was a flash and stars were shooting around the shed, the stars were the flares that illuminated the trenches, a fire started and a fireball ran down the benches, burning the girls as they sat there,  7 of the girls were burnt beyond recognition, My Aunt Amelia Smith (Polly) was one of them. The girls were recognised by family members by the necklaces they wore or items of clothing.

A few of the girls managed to escape, and foreman Edward Jones returned to the building to rescue the girls and died in the process. One witness said the foreman Edward Jones, tried to lift one of the girls through the window but the heat and the smoke was too great and he fell back. Another manager opened one of the doors and he saw a girl on fire, he pulled her out, and she was taken to Erith hospital, her injuries were so severe she died the next day. 

The Crayford Fire Brigade were the first to attend the fire and worked bravely and efficiently to put out the fire preventing it from spreading to the Thames Munition which was next door. 

On the 18th February 2024 at 3pm there is to be a Memorial Service at St Augustine’s Church, Slade Green to mark 100 years since the disaster.

The Victims of the Disaster were:

Alice Mary Craddock (18)  Arthur Street, Erith

Doris Winifred Sturtivant (22)  Manor Road, Erith

Rene Annie Turtle (22)  West Street, Erith

Edith Louise Lamb (23)  Upper Road, Belvedere

Alice Maud Harvey (17)   Arthur Street, Erith

Gladys Constance Herbert (23)  Friday Road, Erith

Alice Sweeny (16)  St Francis Road, Erith

Stella Huntley (19)  Oxford Terrace, West Street, Erith 

Elizabeth Caroline Dalton (25)  18, Lewis Road, Welling

Amelia Mary Smith (Polly) (18)  52, Boundary Street, Erith

Ethel Louisa Pullen (Topsy) (18) 47, Bexley Road, Erith

Edna Allen (17)  Alexandra Road, Erith

Edward Jones (29) 52, Dalmain Road, Forest Hill

Picture of the girls was taken in December 1923, two months before the disaster

I am trying to trace the relatives of the victims to invite them to the Memorial Service. I think it important that these girls and their foreman are not forgotten and are remembered for the sacrifice they made. To date I have been unable to trace any relatives of Edward Jones. Edward is interred in Ladywell cemetery. Plot number No C/1567 in a common grave with 14 others.

News Cutting, of their Forman. Edward James Jones

Words By Mike Smith

Mick Martin and Phill Barnes-Warden, will be attending the memorial Service, There will be 13 candles at the altar, during the ceromony  the names will be read out, and a candle lit to each. Mick will light one in memory of Edward James Jones