THE terrible explosion that rocked Bradford 100 years ago is being remembered in an exhibition.

The blast and subsequent fires at Low Moor Munitions Company on August 21 1916 claimed the lives of 40, including five firefighters and their story is being told in the exhibition in City Hall which opened yesterday.

It was launched by Lord May of Bradford Councillor Geoff Reid who welcomed one of the firefighter’s grandsons, David Crosby, whose grandfather, Knighton Pridmore, died while on duty at the explosion.

Mr Crosby, who now lives in Vancouver, Canada, said it was a touching exhibition that affected so many people.

Cllr Reid said while Bradford families were suffering the loss of loved ones in the Somme, others in Bradford were being devastated with losses in Low Moor as people went about their normal day-to-day lives. He also commended the bravery of the firefighters.

“Today we are reminded that bravery in the face of danger continued here as well as over there and the firefighters were at the heart of the grim events in South Bradford 100 years ago.

“The display has been put together with Bradford Museums and Galleries and the Lord Mayor’s Office. It is an impressive display and in the right place.”

He added: “The other week the Lady Mayoress, Chris Reid, and I went to a centenary in my ward when we recalled that while there was carnage on the Western front, some people in Eccleshill were starting a bowling club. Joy and grief co-existing side-by-side is an essential part of our community.”

Cllr Reid welcomed Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling who added: “I think this display is testament to the bravery and courage of the firefighters who responded that day. Forty people died and over 100 had significant injuries.”

He spoke of the Bradford City tragedy more than 40 years ago saying: “This (the Low Moor fire) compares with that in a similar manner showing the bravery of those firefighters. It mirrors the commitment of the firefighters who serve within the city to this day.

“Their bravery was in the true honour of fire service tradition and their names live on as we remember the ultimate sacrifice they made that fateful day in their bid to save others.”

The Low Moor Munitions Company originally produced picric acid which was used to colour carpets but was also a product of high explosives.

It was converted into a munitions factory on the outbreak of World War One and had been expanded to cope with demand.

The first explosion sent up a huge cloud of smoke and was heard as far away as York.

Further explosions killed five of the 15 firemen and one of the three officers who had rushed to the scene from Bradford and Odsal.

A neighbouring factory was badly damaged. Around 50 homes had to be demolished and a further 2,000 were damaged, three schools also had to close. Train lines were damaged, 30 railway carriages were destroyed and a further 100 were damaged.

Due to the war newspapers were not permitted to report the incident in detail. However word of mouth spread news of the explosions and thousands of people came to the funeral procession, to thank the firefighters who helped and to pay their respect to those who died.

The exhibition contains nine of the 40 medals awarded by Bradford Council on behalf of the city, to the brave firefighters who attended the incident as well as the manager of the company, who led the works fire brigade but died as a result of the explosion.

Eighteen of the medals awarded were ‘merit’ medals for special bravery

Superintendent Robert Forbes, who had joined Bradford Fire Brigade from Glasgow in 1902 was awarded the Albert Medal, equivalent to the Victoria Cross, for his heroic efforts in rescuing several firefighters and removing two of the fire engines to safety.

The exhibition also features items from the “Hayhurst” a fire appliance which was destroyed in the incident and photographs, several loaned from Bradford Museums and Galleries and others from private collections.

These are under lock and key in a glass cabinet

Also on display is a figurine of one of the firefighters who attended the incident which was a gift from former Lord Mayor Coun Joanne Dodds commemorating her civic year. The figurine is a scaled down replica of a statue at the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters which is dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives at Low Moor.

It had been modelled by fireman Thomas Farrar.

Also in attendance was Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Dave Walton; chair of the Fire Authority Judith Hughes, Bradford councillors and representatives from Bradford Council’s Museums and Galleries Service and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The exhibition runs until September 8.

There is also a service of commemoration at St Paul’s Church, Birkenshaw, at 10.30am on Sunday, August 21, and then at the Fire and Rescue Service headquarters at 12pm. There will be wreath-laying and the rededication of a plaque to the six firemen that adorns a statue moved from Scholemoor Cemetery in 2003.