Kate Adie has been back in the North East making two programmes for the BBC commemorating the start of the First World War.
The first film, The Killing Factories, tells of the urgent construction in 1915-16 of munitions factories – like one at Birtley, Gateshead – in response to the ‘Shell Scandal’, a public outcry at the lack of ammunition at the Front.
The new factories were staffed by thousands of women – and also, in the North East, by wounded and exiled Belgian soldiers – to produce millions of artillery shells.
The programme focuses on an explosion at a munitions factory in Nottingham which killed 140 people. Sabotage was suspected at the time.
Kate, who grew up in Sunderland, visited the new BAE Systems munitions plant in Washington and also the site of the historic Birtley factory.
At BAE Systems to compare working conditions then and now, she concluded: “It’s just impossible to consider it’s the same sort of process. You could eat your dinner off the floor here.”
The programme, part of the BBC’s World War One At Home series, is broadcast in the East Midlands on Monday at 7.30pm but is available here on satellite TV and will be shown on BBC Four later in the year.
A second programme, to be shown later in the summer, will look at the role of women in the First World War, a subject Kate made the subject of her latest book, Fighting On The Home Front.
Footage provided by Northumberland firm Newsmaker PR and Video Production Ltd was used in both films.
BAE Systems spokesman Andy Mann said: “We were delighted to be able to assist the BBC and Kate Adie in the production of these programmes. The contribution that the munitions workers made – and still make – in support of our armed forces should never be overlooked.”