The annual Armistice Day lunch held by Landmarc Support Services and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) once again honoured the ladies who worked at Swynnerton Training Camp in World War II – fondly named the ‘Swynnerton Roses’.
The Swynnerton Roses were invited along with their family members to the lunch pays respect to these ladies and remembers those who lost their lives to protect our freedom, as well as the apprentices that worked there in the 1950s, ex-employees, the local police and fire brigade and the residents of Swynnerton and the surrounding areas who support the Camp and Unit activities throughout each and every year.
During the War, some 33,000 people – the majority of which were women – worked on site to supply troops with ammunition, including Spitfire bullets and black powder used for illuminations at sea. The work was dangerous and there were injuries and fatalities, however there are still a number of surviving ‘Swynnerton Roses’ – all of whom are in their 90s.
Iris Aplin, now 94, is one of the surviving Roses who worked making fuses in the ammunitions factory from the age of 18. She said: “It was really dangerous work, we couldn’t sweep up the ammunitions as there was the risk of explosion, so we had to use an oil rag to clean up.”
Joan Key’s role was organising the wages for the Roses, as at 15 she was too young to work directly with the ammunitions. Her father and sister also worked in the factory, and she has been coming to this annual event since it began in 2004. Joan said: “This event is a time to remember the girls and what they did, and it’s so lovely to see it grow bigger every year.”
17 years ago a group of around 10 people gathered over a cup of coffee, a biscuit and the laying of a single wreath but the event has now grown exponentially to the event it is today, with a huge number of over 200 visitors this year and the laying of 12 wreaths. So many people in the surrounding areas and as far as the Potteries and Stafford have a family link to Swynnerton past and present.
It was 97 year old Alice Heath’s first time at the event, who worked at the factory for four years. She added: “I had various jobs working in the different sections of the factory, one of which involved checking the shells on the ammunition, but I left in 1945 to have a baby.”
DIO, along with Landmarc and ESS employees looked after the honoured guests from the moment they arrived. Tea and coffee were served prior to a short service and wreath laying at the cenotaph, followed by the last post played by a bugler. The team then waited on the tables with a three course lunch, provided by ESS.
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: “It’s an honour to recognise the bravery of those who served at ROF Swynnerton, and it’s a pleasure to be able to thank the Swynnerton Roses in particular with this event, as they really are heroines who undertook an extremely dangerous job for their country. We also like to get local residents involved as a thank you for the support they provide to Swynnerton as a live firing site 365 days a year.”
Swynnerton Training Camp was built in 1939, originally as a Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) manufacturing munitions for World War II. The location was chosen because it was easily hidden by mist and fog.