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.
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: