The human cost of the Battle of the Somme, which started on July 1, 1916, was still being felt on August 21, 97 years ago, when a munitions factory at Low Moor blew up, causing 99 casualties, 39 of them fatal.

The Somme and the Low Moor explosion both featured on the back page, the main news page, of the morning edition of the Bradford Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, August 23.

Both events are linked by the artillery shells manufactured at Low Moor and fired on the Western Front. The Battle of the Somme, which started on July 1 that year, was preceded by days of shelling.

More than a million projectiles of various calibre and utility were fired at the deep German trenches and barbed wire entanglements in front of them. British commanders fatally believed that the Germans had been wiped out.

The ugly reality of what was going on in France and what happened in Bradford was covered up at the time, the country being at war.

Every Friday the Telegraph’s sister paper, The Bradford Weekly Telegraph, carried two broadsheet pages of black-edged photographs of dead and wounded soldiers, making death look dignified. The Monday afternoon blast at Low Moor Chemical Works was referred to as a fortunately rare occurrence. The cause, if it was known, wasn’t publicised.

On Wednesday, August 23, the Yorkshire Observer on Page 7 published the latest casualties from the Western Front in France: 66 officers and 2,522 men. On Page 4 there was a short report “authorised by the Ministry of Munitions”: “The explosion began with a small fire outside one of the small magazines, which shortly afterwards exploded, and this explosion was followed at short intervals by other explosions until the largest magazine exploded and caused the greater part of the damage.

“The loss of life was not so serious as at first seemed probable, and this was due to the fact that the fire which preceded the first explosion gave sufficient warning to enable most of the men and all of the women workers to get out of danger.”

Four days after the Low Moor blast on August 25, the Bradford Weekly Telegraph carried a pen and ink cartoon on its front page depicting a male and female munitions worker.

The man is saying: “What’s all this cackle about votes and a new register?” The woman, holding an artillery shell, replies: “Don’t know – or care. We’re all too busy just now.”

The report on Page 6 disclosed halfway down that: “Twenty bodies have been recovered. The casualties are not so heavy as was first anticipated.”

The report also carried an exchange that had taken place in the House of Commons involving Winston Churchill, W Thorne and Dr Addison, Parliamentary Secretary at the Munitions Department.

Churchill asked if all the casualties had occurred in one place. Dr Addison said “Yes”. Mr Thorne asked if the cause of the explosion was known. “No. We have been unable to ascertain that,” Dr Addison replied.

The fatalities included six firemen from Odsal. It was believed that a collapsing wall had smashed their appliance and killed them. There is a large monument to them at Scholemoor cemetery.