One Hundredth …

This is my one hundredth blog post.  August 4th 2014 also marks one hundred years since Britain joined the First World War; the one that failed to end all of war memorial

Hereford city and most of the surrounding villages have memorials dedicated to those who were killed during World War One. Hereford’s memorial is based upon an Eleanor Cross and was erected in 1922. For more information about it please see my blog post here.

A shell filling factory was built at Rotherwas, just outside Hereford. This became operational in November 1916. The British military used 248 million shells during the four years of fighting. The propellant used was cordite and a vital component of cordite is acetone. Most of Britain’s acetone was imported from the USA, but the German U-boats had cut off this supply.

Illustration of Horse Chestnut

Illustration of Aesculus hippocastanum plate 326 in: Otto Wilhelm Thomé: Flora von Deutschland (1885) Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It was then discovered that the humble horse-chestnut, otherwise known as a conker, could be used to make acetone. School children were enlisted for this war work and schools were closed for conker collecting days, although it was state secret as to why. A notice in The Times of 26th July 1917, under the heading “Nuts Required for Munition Making” read, “… an important wartime use has been found for horse chestnuts and that chestnut clubs might be formed to arrange for the collection of the nuts, correspondents have asked for whom the nuts are needed. We are informed that the chestnut seeds are required by the Government for the Ministry of Munitions”. It is thought that around 3,000 tons were delivered and stored in six huge silos at the Royal Navy Cordite Factory in Dorset.

Presumably when peace broke out in 1918, school children could return to the traditional pastime of playing “conkers” whereby each child has a conker on a string, they take it in turns to strike the other’s conker in an effort to shatter it.

It was not the war to end all wars, indeed many regard World War II as simply a continuation. It also sowed the seeds for  many current conflicts. However, this does not detract from the sacrifice of the men and women who believed that they were fighting for a better future. I shall end this post with the famous words of  Laurence Binyon:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.Photo of poppies



11 thoughts on “One Hundredth …

  1. I had no idea about the conker when I played the game as a school kid! And the final words, always make me so sad. As you say, so many paid the ultimate sacrifice, for our freedom. Something which is taken for granted today. Thank you for all the information, presented in such a reader-friendly way 🙂

  2. Always find something new when I read your pieces – this time it was the “conkers” bit.
    Congratulations on always having something new to put out there.
    Don’t stop now!
    No pressure 😉

  3. Pingback: Horse-Chestnut Tree | rambling ratz

  4. Pingback: Trees and their August Fruits | rambling ratz

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