Chilwell explosion: Graves to be restored

The mass graves which contain the unidentified  remains of over 100 workers killed in the Chilwell explosion in 1918 will be restored and rededicated as part of a week of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the disaster.

The graves are in the grounds of St Mary’s Church, Attenborough, and are marked by a series of flagstones and a small granite memorial with a blue plaque.

A new memorial consisting of raised beds and gravel paths has been designed by the Royal Engineers based at Chetwynd Barracks, Chilwell, the site of the explosion at the National Shell Filling Factory.

It will be built in time for a special Commemoration service at St Mary’s on Sunday 1st July – 100 years to the day since the explosion.

The service will be attended by Bishop Paul Williams and civic and military dignitaries including the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire Sir John Peace. It will start with a parade led by the Nottinghamshire Band of the Royal Engineers.

The service will be the culmination of almost two weeks of events and activities to mark the anniversary including walks, talks, school visits, a performance of the play Swan Canaries at the barracks and a tea party with jazz band.

Click here for full details of all the events and to get tickets

The original grave was marked with a wooden memorial cross which bore a metal wooden sword. The cross deteriorated and was removed due to after vandalism and the sword was taken and displayed in the Sergeants’ Mess at Chilwell Barracks. A new cross will be installed, with a new sword, while the original will be returned from the barracks and displayed in the church.

Click here for details of the Swan Canaries play

The cost of the new memorial and the celebrations commemoration events will amount to about £20,000 and St Mary’s is busily raising funds to meet this target. If you would like to make a donation you can do so at:

The Vicar of Attenborough, Revd Jonathan Smithurst said: “The community is really coming together to mark this very significant event, much of which is taking place in an ancient church on what has been a site of Christian worship for over and it is all taking part in a church which has been here for 1,000 years.”

Anyone who has any stories about the disaster should contact the Parish Office on 0115-925-9602 or by email to

Read more about the Chilwell explosion