HC Deb 24 June 1931 vol 254 cc441-2

(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he is in a position to give any further information concerning the explosion at Holton Heath Naval Cordite factory?


I much regret to have to inform the House that an explosion occurred in one of the nitroglycerine houses at the Royal Naval Cordite Factory, Holton Heath, at 10.43 a.m. on Tuesday and caused the death of 10 persons; 19 minor injuries were reported, three of which were fractures and were sent to hospital; the remainder were cuts and small fractures, shock and one acid burn. Very considerable damage was caused as the explosion in the nitroglycerine house followed down the gutter ways by which the nitroglycerine is conveyed to other houses in the course of its treatment, and this resulted in the demolition of three other houses and damage to another. Damage was also caused to an acid pipe, which resulted in a large quantity of mixed acid flowing down the hill where the tanks are situated, making it difficult to deal with small fires at various points.

This nitroglycerine house was reconstructed last year, when opportunity was taken to raise some of the traverses in order to give better protection against a possible accident of this kind. These traverses proved very effective in reducing the general effect of the explosion. The houses are purposely of light structure for greater safety, so that their destruction by such an explosion was to be expected.

Every possible step was taken at once by the factory fire brigade and staff to deal with the situation and extinguish fires. The probable cause of the explosion has not yet been definitely reported, but is already under investigation locally and will be the subject of an official inquiry as soon as possible. The nitroglycerine mixing houses are necessarily a dangerous point in the factory, but every possible precaution both in the layout and manner of working is taken to minimise risk. I am sure the House would wish to express sympathy with the relatives of those who lost their lives, and with the injured.