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First published in The Potter November 2009
Text © Copyright John Heaton 2009

Swynnerton Training Area

Introduction

This is currently an Army Training Area on the site of a former World War 2 munitions factory.

History

The site was known as ROF Swynnerton Filling Factory Nº 5, and was one of 18 similar facilities in the country. Filling factories was where the ammunition manufactured elsewhere was filled with the explosives. The filled ammunition would then be stored and issued from magazines on the sites.

This factory was constructed in 1939-40 and in 1942 a peak of 18,000 workers were employed at the site. Filling was undertaken in a large number of lightly constructed buildings within earth revetments. If one building was destroyed the revetments were designed to contain the blast without affecting adjacent buildings.

Many of the workers were recruited in the pottery towns around Stoke on Trent and brought to the factory each day by special trains using a specially constructed branch line from what is now the main West Coast Line. A four-platform station was constructed at Cold Meece. Each platform was 900 feet in length and able to accommodate two trains at the same time. By the time the station was complete ROF Swynnerton was working round the clock on a three-shift system. The station never appeared on a public timetable and the factory was not shown on Ordnance Survey maps until 1962.

ROF Swynnerton remained operational after the war on a single shift, but by 1955 the workforce had been reduced to just over 3000 and continued to dwindle until its closure in 1958.

About 1960 the site was handed over to the army and it became the Swynnerton Training area.

In 1962 two Civil Defence, Cold War, Bunkers for the county of Staffordshire were created in refurbished storage magazines on the site, but only maintained for a few years. In the 80’s and early 90’s one was further refurbished and reactivated to serve the West Midlands. With little threat of nuclear war it was closed in 1992 and sold back to the army, but remain closed and unused (permanently out of bounds). Similar installations around the country are now tourist attractions, including the Cheshire “Secret Bunker”at Hack Green south of Nantwich.

Event History

The area has only been used previously in recent years for Army events. The map was produced by Hugh Drummond and as had some minor revisions for the 2009 POTOC event by the planner.

Description

The area is ring fenced and has no public access. It is a mostly flat and nearly diamond shaped area with about 2.5k sides, criss -crossed with a number of access roads. Off the roads the area is complex, intricate and challenging in places. About 15% of the land, adjacent to the car park, is mainly open coniferous woodland. About 50% is the zone of the former storage magazines (some still standing, some ruined) and the filling buildings, the earthbanks of which still remain. These and other artificial embankments create a maze effect. The remaining area is a complex mixture of open, rough open and small patches of slow run. There are extensive areas of bramble and nettle undergrowth, but the 2009 planner assures me that his courses are designed to miss the worst of them. The nettles should mostly die back by the end of November.

Wildlife

All I can say in this section is that somewhere in a corner of the area are Turkeys in an enclosure, which occasionally run loose.

John Heaton