The History of Scotland goes back a long way, but here we look at more recent times.
The year is 1915. The First World War is going very badly for Britain. There is a huge number of casualties, caused mainly by a lack of guns and ammunition. This caused unrest in the British Public, and it was necessary to do something really drastic, otherwise our country would lose the war with Germany.
So it was decided to commandeer land on the Solway Coast, stretching for 9 miles and 2 miles in width.
Firstly, the area was outwith the range of the Zeppelins and German bombers, and it was protected by Mountains to the North, East, and South.
Secondly it was served by extremely good north/south road and rail links.
What was the land commandeered for?
Britain was going to build the largest Munitions Factory the world has ever seen!
Architects were brought in to design two new towns, Gretna and Eastriggs, to house the workforce. They were designed on the same model as Welwyn Garden City with picturesque tree-lined streets and avenues. At first the houses were built of wood, but as supplies of timber ran out, they were later to be built of brick. Hostels were provided for the bulk of the workforce, and could go up in as little as a day! There was also churches, a dancehall, pubs and a cinema, as well as shops, admin offices.
This was the job of Irish navvies, in the main, who came over to Scotland. It took 30,00 workers to build the factory and the two towns, which were ready for use by 1916.
Women! But as this was a rural area where would the workforce come from? The answer is that they came from all countries of the British Empire (as it was known at that time).
20,000 women worked there! Now one can imagine this was an added incentive for the Irish Navvies! and I am told there was many a wedding resulted from this project. There was also a good amount of brawling as a result of what was being consumed in the pubs! But despite the distractions, the job got done.
Why did they need 9 miles x 2 miles for the factory?
Between each section of the factory, they had to build a mound of earth to separate the buildings, because if one exploded the mound would prevent the others from following suit in a chain explosion.
Mounds between each section of the factory.
How did they make the ammunition?
The basic ingredient was COTTON. It arrived from the USA in huge bales. This was then mixed with nitroglycerine, and acid. This mixture was so volatile that the women were not allowed to wear any metal object e.g buttons, as this could trigger an explosion. (There were explosions -over 300 women died in munitions factories in UK) Upon arrival for work each women would be searched for metal, and if any was discovered the girl would be fined.
In his role as a war correspondent, he visited the factory, and marvelled at the effort, writing about the girls stirring their "Devil's Porridge" (thus the phrase was coined)
In those days, women were very much subjugated, and because of Conan Doyle's glowing reports on their war efforts, opinions towards women changed and they eventually got the vote.
All of this huge enterprise was only in use for 3 YEARS with the War ending in 1918.
The buildings were either pulled down or sold at a knockdown price as housing. Gretna and Eastriggs remain to this day, in Scotland, with their distinctive English-designed houses.
The workforce dispersed to their own countries, but their efforts will always be venerated in this small rural part of Scotland, for without them, the outcome of the First World war would have