“Moorside” for security reasons and referred to it as “one of the wonder spots of the earth”. Of the manufacturing process he wrote, “There the nitro-glycerine on the one side and the gun-cotton on the other are kneaded into a sort of devil’s porridge, which is the next stage of manufacture.
“This, by the way, is where the danger comes in. The least generation of heat may cause an explosion. Those smiling khaki-clad girls who are swirling the stuff round in their hands would be blown to atoms in an instant if certain small changes occurred. The changes will not occur, and the girls will still smile and stir their ‘devil’s porridge’, but it is a narrow margin between life and death”
By the Armistice in November 1918 the nation’s struggle was over, and those miracle workers of Moorside were free to return to their far corners of the Empire. The city on the Solway had served the needs of the nation, and as the demands for its product declined, so did the prosperity of the region. By the beginning of the 1920s the factory area resembled something of a ghost town. In September 1921, The Times advertised the sale of HM Factory Gretna, and on Tuesday 22nd to Friday 25th July, 1924 the 607 catalogued lots were sold, and soon afterwords the factory site was stripped of its assets.
Between the wars, Gretna became a depressed area and remained more or less that way up until mid 1930s when defence expenditure was again boosted by the threat of yet another conflict. A huge Ministry of Supply Depot and an Ammunition Depot were constructed on those sites previously occupied by the Dornock and Mossband areas of the old factory, and with these Gretna lived again.
An amazing exhibition entitled “The Devil’s Porridge” has been created in the former St John’s Church, Dunedin Road, Eastriggs. The exhibition site is situated just off the A75 trunk road between Gretna and Annan and is another “must visit” if you ever come to this part of Southern Scotland to explore Galloway’s many Secrets. The exhibition is open from Easter through to October from 10 am to 4 pm Monday to Saturday and from 12 pm to 4 pm Sunday. Entrance is Adult £1.50, Concessions £1.00, Family £5 (2 adults plus 3 concessions) and children under 8 are free.
Two of the 20,000 workers at the hurriedly-built Gretna Munitions factory. They’re mixing gun-cotton, a process certain to result in a violent explosion should any foreign body enter the material