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World War One National Shell Filling Factory Number 9


Banbury Museum


World War One National Shell Filling Factory Number 9


Documentary shoot

Incorporating historic archive footage

Animated graphics


A  scrubby field next to the M40 at Banbury has a secret - in 1916 it was a first world war shell filling factory. Back then it employed more than 1500 people -  a third of them women. English Heritage descibres it as being of national and international significance even though little remains of it today as it was dismantled in the early 1920s. In this video Dale Johnston from Banbury Museum walk us through this ghost factory. The film incorporates moving images from the Imperial War Museum's archive with photographs and maps which brings the factory to life.  

It has been made to appeal to both school children and adult audiences and it documents one of the best preserved first world war filling factories in the UK. It produced more than 4 million shells - including those carrying mustard gas. 

During the making of this film it was discovered that one of the wooden buildings still survives - it had been transported to the centre of Banbury and has been used as a coffin store ever since! 

Shoot and edit

The single camera documentary shoot took place on a chilly March day, before the undergrowth took hold and started to obscure the layout of the factory from the ground.  The land is privately owned and although Banbury Museum organises a handful of tours during the summer months for most people the site is inaccessible.  Dale Johnston is the man who organises the tours is passionate about its history - passionate enough to  gamely carry an original shell (empty but still very heavy) and a packet of spaghetti in his rucksack all day. This was was to demonstrate how shells were filled. As the site covers several acres and isn't accessible by road we walked several miles during the course of the filming day.

To complement the video shot on site we had access to great archive material, including an audio recording of Gladys Sangster whose mother worked at the factory. We also had an aerial still of the motorway and the site as it is today and a map from English Heritage of the layout of the factory in 1916 -  combining these allowed us to put everything into context. We were also able to animate diagrams to show where the empty shells arrived and their journey to being filled and later stored prior to being taken by train to the coast.   

Tech and spec

Shooting within a stones throw of the motorway posed challenges in recording the sound. We used both a radio mic and a directional mic on a boom for that. It also made using a drone for aerial shots impossible. 

The finished film is available online and on DVD for distribution to local schools. 


Relationship with the client

Podcats first met Dale while we were making a series of radio documentaries for the BBC's World War One at Home series - which is where we first came across the filling factory story. We were delighted when he contacted us with funding to make this short video documentary. 

BBC Royal Albert Hall NHS Raymond Gubbay Animal Health Trust Kew Gardens