Venesta factory explosion
At about 7pm on January 19 a massive explosion in a munitions factory in Silvertown, West Ham, killed 73 people. Many of the workers killed were women, ‘munitionettes’ who had volunteered to do their bit to support the war effort. The explosion happened after the day shift had ended; had it been during the working day, the death toll would have been much higher.
The women were very proud of their service and munitionettes who died were given funerals that echoed military funerals, as seen in this Pathé News reel from 1917.
The explosion injured a further 400 people, and the damage spread across the neighbouring streets. Thousands were left homeless, requiring temporary accommodation in schools, churches, and town halls.
The explosion was heard up to 100 miles away, with residents across Richmond reporting hearing the blast.