War secrets of Bristol

My youngest son, Jake, is a budding thespian and belongs to a community theatre group. As his number one fan I have watched all his performances and a couple of weeks ago the group put on another outstanding play.

Thanks to funding from the Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery and a lot of research the ACTA Community Theatre told the story of the Mustard Gas factories in Bristol in a production called Gas Girls.

During the last 6 months of World War 1 there were 2 factories in Bristol; Avonmouth and Chittening, full of women filling bombs with the toxic and deadly mustard gas using charging machines. Contrary to the name it was actually a liquid that, due to the design of the machines, leaked constantly. As spillages were a regular event the Mustard Gas was absorbed into the floors and walls,  meaning the workers were permanently exposed to the harmful effects.

The employees were paid much better wages at these factories than in other places of work such as in service, but they suffered many distressing symptoms. These symptoms included; raw and inflamed throats, blisters and rashes, burns, conjunctivitis, nosebleeds, bronchitis and gastritis. So serious and common were these illnesses that there were on site hospitals at the factories and staff were checked on a daily basis by the medical team. The recorded visits to the hospital in the Avonmouth factory were as high as 80 to 90 a day. At this factory in that 6 month period in 1918, 1,100 people were employed and 710 of those were affected by Mustard Gas poisoning, there were 1,400 reported illnesses and 3 deaths directed related to Mustard Gas. Unfortunately for some the misery didn’t end when the factories closed, chronic conditions such as gastric pain, mental inertia, cough, breathlessness and weak memory plagued them until their deaths.

I have to say the production was the best I’ve ever seen from the group, each and every cast member were outstanding, delivering professional and moving performances. I’m sure you’ll think me biased but my son’s monologue was fantastic and moved me to tears. But don’t take my word for it, these are some of the comments from their facebook page;

“It was more than I imagined it to be, incredibly moving”

“It was outstanding, poignant and funny”

“I was surprised just how professional the show was, it felt like you were part of the drama, very intense”.

I watched the preview performance as they are taking the show on the road in June, so if you live in or near Bristol you still have a chance to catch this incredible play.

These are the dates and places;

10th, 11th and 12th June at the Avonmouth Community Centre at 7pm

16th June at Wickham Theatre, (University of Bristol) at 7pm

21st June at Withywood Community Centre at 3pm and 7pm

24th June at Orchard School Horfield at 7pm.

I will definitely be watching it again.

jake's monologue

end of the war

Jake as foreman


factory girls

medical checks

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kathacta
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 14:15:50

    Thank you so much for your support Carole. Fantastic article. K 🙂


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