The annual Armistice Day lunch hosted by Landmarc Support Service and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), has been held in honour of the ladies who worked at Swynnerton Training Camp in World War II – fondly named the ‘Swynnerton Roses’ – and family members, along with apprentices that worked there in the 1950s, local residents, ex-employees, and the local police and fire brigade. The event also honours the gentleman apprentices and remember those who lost their lives to protect our freedom.
33,000 people – the majority of them women, worked on site during the war. They supplied troops with ammunition including black powder used for illuminations at sea and Spitfire bullets. Dues to the dangerous nature of the work there were many injuries and fatalities, but a number of the Swynnerton Roses still survive, and they are all now in the their 90’s.
Dora Gayle, 93, one of the surviving roses who worked filling detonators, commented on the event: “It’s nice to be able to come back to Swynnerton and be recognised for the work that we did. At the time we didn’t know how dangerous it was and we didn’t really know what was going on in the outside world as there was no wireless and you didn’t really talk to the girls you were working with.”
16 years ago a group of around 10 people gathered over a coffee, a biscuit and the laying of a single wreath. Since then it has grown exponentially to the event it is today, with a huge number of 172 visitors this year.
The honoured guests were looked after from the moment they arrived by DIO, Landmarc & ESS employees. Tea & coffee were served before a short service & wreath laying, followed by the haunting strains of the last post played by a bugler from Staffordshire ATC. The team then waited on the tables with a three course lunch, provided by ESS.
This year the seven Roses in attendance, and the family representatives of others, were presented with a badge in recognition of ammunition workers and their efforts in the War. The badges were sponsored by British Aerospace, who are now in charge of weapons production, and organised by Samantha Webb who is the great-granddaughter of a previous Rose, Lillian Hill, who is sadly no longer with us.
Major (Ret’d) Jim Salisbury, DIO’s training safety officer at the camp, is part of the team who organises the annual event. He said: “Being able to recognise the bravery of the men and women who served at ROF Swynnerton is a real honour. Especially the Swynnerton Roses, these unsung heroines had an extremely dangerous job to do and it’s our pleasure to be able to thank them with this event. It’s also a chance for us to be able to thank the local residents for the support they provide to Swynnerton as a live firing site 365 days a year.”
Swynnerton Rose, Barbara Botfield, who is also in her 90’s said: “The day was absolutely lovely. The icing on the cake was to be presented with the badges. We never thought we’d be recognised for the work that we did, so to receive something was a huge surprise and I think all of us were genuinely shocked and pleased. I’ve got happy memories of my time at Swynnerton, it was a lovely lot of girls who just got on with a very dangerous job.”
Sarah Butler, Landmarc’s team administrator at Swynnerton, added: “It is such a special day, not only for our guests but for me personally as my Grandma was a ‘Rose’. It is an honour to serve these heroes and say thank you for all they did for our country and to say thank you to our residents for their ongoing support now.”
Swynnerton Training Camp was built in 1939, originally as a Royal Ordnance Factory manufacturing munitions for World War II, and the location was chosen because it was easily hidden by mist and fog.