Carlisle, Cumbria: start of the Women Police Service

Dublin Core


Carlisle, Cumbria: start of the Women Police Service


The introduction of a women's police force in 1915, as a response to the problems associated with the huge influx of munition workers, especially women workers, into Carlisle.


A discussion of the Carlisle contingent of the Women Police Service - at 165 members this was the largest branch of the organisation. At its peak there were around 12,000 female munitions workers at the Gretna factory and they were relatively well paid - with money to spend on alcohol on nights out, for instance.
A photograph is provided of some of the WPS in Carlisle - but note that they did not have powers of arrest.
The commentary includes discussion of contemporaneous accounts of drunkenness, and also concern about 'inappropriate' contact between the female munition workers and men; there is mention of a court case where a man was jailed for five days for talking too long (in the view of a WPS member) with a woman at Carlisle Railway Station - who actually was his fiancé.
There is also discussion of the fact that WPS was marginalised after the end of the war, and mention of one specific member of the service who was subsequently linked to the British Union of Fascists.


BBC Radio Cumbria


First broadcast 2014


There are photographs and information about the Gretna munitions factory on the website of the related museum: There is also a short film about the factory and the production of cordite, for high explosive ammunition, there:
This includes discussion of the serious health problems suffered by the women who worked in the factory.


Twentieth century, World War One

Sound Item Type Metadata


8 minutes, 5 seconds


Sam Riches

The hyperlink to the museum needs some explanation: 'Devil's Porridge' was the name given to a mixture of nitroglycerin and gun-cotton used to produce cordite at the factory. The term was apparently coined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes stories) in an article about a visit to the factory, published in 1916.

Sam Riches

And I now have a link to the text of the article by Conan Doyle:




BBC Radio Cumbria, “Carlisle, Cumbria: start of the Women Police Service,” Local History Resources for Schools, accessed August 19, 2018,