Title: Scout troop Elisabethville, Birtley
Photographer: Dedrie, Julien
Reference Number: GL003301
Item Description: Elisabethville (so named after the Queen of the Belgians) was a unique village in Birtley At the outbreak of World War One, Britain was faced with a munitions shortfall. More factories were needed to provide armaments and in July 1915 an agreement was made between the government and Armstrong-Whitworth to build two factories at Birtley – one to produce shells, the other cartridge cases As nearly all able-bodied men were otherwise engaged, the Belgian government in exile was contacted. This resulted in an agreement between the British and Belgians in February 1916 whereby the Belgian administration agreed to manage the factories and provide all of the necessary labour while the British paid all expenses and materials. The workforce for these factories was to be made up solely of Belgian refugees and wounded Belgian service men and so Elisabethville was born – a complete, self-contained small town to house these Belgian workers. It was built to house 3000 men.
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