Albright and Wilson were the UK’s only producer of phosphorus during World War Two, and after this conflict also. White and red phosphorus were used in a variety of weapons of war from smoke bombs to the self invented “AW bomb” containing a mixture of p4 and benzene in a half pint milk bottle. There are clear established links between this company and the military; this cannot be denied. On the other hand there has been latter day denial of these historic links by the current metamorphosis of the company Rhodia/Solvay, because of the inconvenient dilema that disposal of such toxic materials poses to the environment, (AND TO THEIR COST.)
These two requests were a first attempt to put on record what the present day Ministry of Defence may have known about the links between “The Ministry of Supply Agency factory Oldbury” managed by Albright and Wilson, and the “disused brickworks” at Rattlechain which was in use in 1942. We also wanted to know whether MOD staff had participated in destruction of AW bombs at the lagoon in the recent past, as was demonstrated by the photograph below.
WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?
In the first request we asked-
“I am requesting information concerning what military artefacts have been deposited in this chemical waste lagoon since 1948. Albright and Wilson produced several million molotov cocktails and other white phosphorus based weapons in both World Wars. They “acquired” this site for waste disposal in 1948, and it is known that some of these have been deposited after being found in post war developments. What quantity of weapons have been deposited since 1948, as Rhodia the new owners of this lagoon have no records.
This information is in the public interest as a new housing estate has been built next to the lagoon, and this information was not made available to residents when they bought their houses from the developer.”
The MOD responded through Defence Estates.
“You asked for information on what military artefacts have been deposited in Rattlechain Mere, Tividale since 1948.
I can confirm that the MOD does not hold any information that falls within the scope of your request.
I am advised that there is no record of MOD ever owning Rattlechain Mere, therefore no records are held on what may or may not have been deposited there.”
In the second request we asked-
- “I am seeking clarification on what protocol existed between the Ministry of Supply/Defence and Albright and Wilson for disposal of any form of military weapons either stockpiled or uncovered in post war developments since 1945.
Albright and Wilson made huge quantities of white phosphorus based weapons at their Langley plant in Oldbury during both World Wars.
In 1948 they “acquired” a site for disposal of slurry waste containing white phosphorus known as Rattlechain Mere or tip based in Tividale, West Midlands.
In the book “Oldbury, Langley and Warley” by Terry Daniels, a photograph of 38 molotov cocktails made by Albright and Wilson are “awaiting destruction at rattlechain Tip.”
I have spoken to the author and the source of the photograph who confirm that these white phosphorus based weapons were blown up with cordite at the site after being uncovered around 1986 at Dudley cricket ground.
- Can the MOD confirm that it’s staff set foot on Rattlechain tip/mere to carry out this controlled explosion and on how many other occasions have British Military staff set foot on this site to dispose or carry out similar military artefact disposal?”
The MOD responded, this time under the cover of The British army.
“I have contacted our Subject matter experts with your request who advise me that although they no longer hold records dating back to 1986 this disposal would have been army business and indeed remains so under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Home Office to provide UK Military Aid to the Civil Police, Explosive Ordnance Device assistance to UK Police Forces. There is no protocol between the MOD and Allbright and Wilson for the provision of disposal items.
We believe that the particular items to which you refer are in fact Grenades Incendiary Hand or Projector Anti Tank No76 (Self Igniting Phosphorous (SIP)), a diagram of which is attached. These grenades were in service between 1940 and 1944 and were commonly issued to the Home Guard. Although we have no specific details relating to the incident you refer to it is almost certain that it would have been a team from 11 Ordnance Battalion (EOD) Royal Army Ordnance Corps that attended and disposed of the items. These items would most likely have been removed to an area of safety and destroyed by placing a length of Detonating Cord across them and initiating it. This would have fractured the glass bottle allowing the white phosphorous filling to be exposed to the atmosphere and thereby spontaneously combusting until all the phosphorous is expended. These items are still commonly encountered by our EOD teams around the UK, and their disposal is a routine matter for us.”
They also provided the diagram below.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
- Defence Estates merely confirmed that they had never “owned” the Rattlechain brickworks site or the pit which became “Rattlechain lagoon.” This does not confirm nor deny the disposal of military weapons by their contractor at MOS factory Oldbury- Albright and Wilson. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO “OWN” A SITE TO USE IT.
- The second request is basically reiterating the information that I gave to them in the first instance concerning the incident involving disposal of AW bombs at Rattlechain lagoon. Although it is refered to as “a routine matter” for EOD teams, there have been problems in terms of co-ordinating multi agency responses when these artefacts are uncovered.
- We have explored this subject in further detail with further requests concerning AW bombs as well as carrying out further research ourselves.