Women working at the Ferranti factory (Photo: Museum of Science and Industry)

Ministry of Munitions exhibition opens in Manchester

Posted on centenarynews.com on 27 March 2015
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An exhibition exploring the role of Britain's Ministry of Munitions in the First World War opens at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester tomorrow, March 28th 2015.

The exhibition, entitled 'The Innovation Race: Manchester's Makers Join the First World War,' also considers the part played by the city's industrialists.

MOSI press release: "It’s 1915. Britain is one year into the First World War and facing a munitions crisis. Victory looks increasingly unlikely. Morale is at an all-time low. The government establishes the Ministry of Munitions in a desperate response to the shell crisis and appoints David Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions. In a subsequent visit to Manchester, he appeals to the city’s great scientific and engineering minds for help. The innovation race is on."

Under Lloyd George’s leadership, the munitions industry grew rapidly, and by 1918 was employing some three million workers in over 20,000 factories across Britain. The reputation he gained as Minister of Munitions is seen to have formed the basis of his political ascent to Prime Minister in late 1916.

Winston Churchill also served as Minister of Munitions from July 1917 to January 1919.

The Innovation Race exhibition considers what is described as Manchester’s unique connection to the munitions industry – the engineers, inventors and scientists who rose to the appeal to support the war effort, giving birth to some crucial wartime inventions.

The Munitions Inventions Department will also be explored: "In the absence of a specialised defence industry, the general public were encouraged to submit their own ideas on how to break the stalemate in WW1.

"Examples of the rejected Inventions show how ideas were often eccentric and unfeasible - from training seagulls to poop on enemy periscopes to mounting machine guns on to artificially frozen clouds. In this spirit of the bizarre, visitors to the exhibition will be invited to design and create their own novel solutions to wartime problems."

The exhibition will also display a range of company archives, sketches and letters of Manchester factory owner and renowned electrical engineer, Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti. Ferranti converted his domestic goods factory to shell and fuse production in 1915 (see above).

The Museum of Science and Industry comments: “From shell production and sprinkler systems, to Ferranti fuses and aerial cameras, Manchester’s makers waged war from the shop floor and turned their factories into weapons of mass production."

"Women started to work in factories for the first time, changing the fabric of society forever.

The family friendly exhibition – complete with hands-on gadgets and creation stations – details the Shell Crisis of 1915 and Lloyd George’s subsequent appeal to the city’s workers, scientists and engineers to support the war effort.”

'The Innovation Race: Manchester’s Makers Join the First World War' opens on March 28th 2015 and will run until March 1st 2016.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

Posted by: Eadaoin Hegarty, Centenary News