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Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 14:33 UK
Radway Green Royal Ordnance Works - anniversary profile
Dan Tierney, BBC Stoke Reporter

Radway Green factory

The Radway Green works, in Alsager in south Cheshire, has been making bullets since it was built in 1940.

In its 70th anniversary year, and now owned by BAE Systems, we visited it to talk to managers and operatives.

Currently making a healthy profit, the works has been through the ups and downs of a sell-off, privatisation, and losses.

Yet many of the present employees come from families whose members have worked at the factory for decades.

BBC report

BBC Radio Stoke visited the factory in Spring 2010, and, over a week, compiled a profile of it, including interviews and photos with the staff.

Radway Green audio stories

It was the first time that journalists had been given such access to the works.

The radio station's reporter Dan Tierney compiled the accounts. You can hear his interviews with staff by clicking on the links to the right.

You can see the photo-gallery by clicking on the link below:-

Dan was given access to the ordnance factory's own testing area, and to the private rail spur which was created during the War. It leads to the nearby main railway line.

He also found out about staff's loyalty to the factory, which is the area's biggest employer.


HISTORY

World War Two

The factory, based in Alsager, is more formally known as Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) No. 13, and was initially set up for the production of .303 ammunition.

At its height in 1942, Radway Green employed over 15,000 people, mostly women, working three shifts per day, 7 days a week.

At the outset of the war, filling was undertaken at the new 'Royal Filling Factory' at nearby Swynnerton village in Staffordshire.

But by 1945, Radway Green was the only ROF to have filling capabilities, making it the only fully integrated ammunition producer in the UK.

Post war cuts

After the war, Radway Green remained open, but with the output drastically reduced and the workforce was cut to 1500 people.

Diversification was the order of the day and Radway Green went into the production of domestic appliances and the factory was soon making 1000 cookers per week.

But conflicts such as the Korean War in 1950 saw occasional spikes in demand for ammunition.

In 1962 the factory commenced work on the production of coinage blanks for the Royal Mint, in preparation for the changeover to decimalisation in 1971.

The 1970s brought considerable investment in new plant and equipment for the manufacture of small arms ammunition. On completion the facility was the largest and most modern of its kind in Europe.

Uncertainty

The '80s saw a period of uncertainty as the ROFs were privatised in 1985 and then two years later, the government sold Royal Ordnance to British Aerospace.

The end of the Cold War in 1989 had a further impact as Force reductions of a third in the British Army and to lesser extent in the RAF and Navy, led to a reduction in orders for ammunition.

By the mid nineties the factory was in a loss making position, and in an attempt to turn things round the company set the factory up as an autonomous stand alone business unit. It looked more abroad to make sales.

Turnaround

The move worked; and over the next 5 years, overseas sales of ammunition increased dramatically, productivity rose to record levels, the quality of the ammunition improved significantly and the factory was making a healthy profit.

Ironically, the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq have ensured the future of the works, as the British Army too began to have more and more need of ammunition.

After 70 years of business, the order books remain full.




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