ONE of Bradford's worst disasters was one of the least reported.

In the days before social media was providing a platform for people to share occurrences within their local community, the local newspaper was the main purveyor of information.

The explosion at the Low Moor Munitions Works on August 21 1916 would have had pages dedicated to the disaster and endless tributes to those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy, yet due to its occurrence at a time when Britain was at war, the explosion was deemed to be war-sensitive information by the Ministry of Munitions.

While news of the explosion spread by word of mouth throughout the local community and, no doubt, beyond - information relating to the blast which appeared in the Bradford Daily Telegraph was reduced to column inches and squeezed among war-related stories.

Mystery surrounds the cause of the blast which is understood to have involved high combustible substances used in the manufacture of military explosives.

Debris rained down on neighbouring houses and shattered windows. Gasholder No 1, as shown in the photo, was also punctured and deflated.

Rolling stock at the nearby railway station was damaged and workers' hair was saturated in bleach and their faces stained yellow with chemicals such as picric acid. Interestingly, the Low Moor site produced picric acid to colour carpets. It was converted into a munitions factory during World War I.

The reporting of what was one of Bradford's worst disasters may have been restricted at the time but this terrible tragedy is something the city, and its community, will never forget.

Low Moor resident Mary Twentyman, who along with her husband Geoff founded the Low Moor Local History Group, and Barbara Reardon whose family originally came from Low Moor, were determined to delve into the disaster as part of the 100th anniversary commemoration.

But even church records lacked any reference to the fateful explosion. "I think it is because it was a different world to the one we live in now," says Mary.

'Yellow Poppies,' the book she and Barbara published for the 100th anniversary of the explosion in 2016, documents the biographical details of all those who died and also those who received national awards for bravery.

"Most people in Low Moor knew it had happened and knew there had been a big bang. A lot of people confused it with the iron works, they thought that had exploded but it was the munitions factory," says Mary.

"I have always known it happened but not known much about it."

Mary says the reason why they wanted to delve into the history of the explosion was to pay tribute to the firefighters who died and also recognise the many others who lost their lives.

"It was in the middle of another horrible disaster - in the middle of the war - but back then you just had to get on with it and I think the people of Low Moor got on with and some of them never mentioned it again which is tragic.

"It was a different world back then - now we would all be talking about it."

For Edith Bower, the Low Moor Munitions Works blast was a life-changing event.

Edith was only 10 weeks old when her father, Fred Normington was one of five other firefighters who perished in the blaze.

The 82-year-old attended a special service at Scholemoor Cemetery in 1999 to pay her respects to those who had died.

Thirty nine men died in the blaze which destroyed the Low Moor Munitions Works on August 21 1916. The other firefighters who lost their lives were Charles Sugden, 44, Knighton Pridmore, 48, Eli Buckley, 29, Edgar Shaw, 24 and 29-year-old Joseph Edmund Binns.

Although Mrs Bower was only a baby when her father died, she learned of his bravery and proudly sported the medal, posthumously awarded to her father from the fire service for his gallant service during the blaze, at the special ceremony at Scholemoor.

"He must have been courageous to fight those fires. I would have liked to have known him because from the stories I have heard he has made me very proud," Edith previously told the T&A.

A memorial to the firemen who lost their lives in the aftermath of the disaster is located at the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters in Birkenshaw and a plaque was also placed on the Spen Valley Greenway in 2016 close to the explosion site which is now understood to be underneath a landfill site.

By Sally Clifford