Eddystone Disaster

Crowd at Eddystone Munitions Plant ExplosionIn 1917 the Eddystone Ammunition Plant, located outside of Chester, was one of the busiest munitions factories in the country piercing fuses and filling shells with gunpowder. On Monday, April 10th at about 9:55 a.m., just days after the U.S. had entered the war, “F” Building of the plant was torn apart by a trio of explosions. One hundred and thirty-three persons, mostly girls, lost their lives in the explosion. The majority of the women killed worked in the loading room.

The force of the explosion was terrific and filled the air with chaos. The calls for help went out to firefighters, ambulances and doctors throughout the area. One hundred PMC cadets, under the command of Captain Lewis Morey, rushed to the scene. Almost immediately the cadets began to calm the crowds and restore order. The Chester City and Crozer hospitals quickly became filled and the Sixth Regiment Armory in Chester was turned into a temporary hospital. A cadet company was assigned to keep order as hundreds of relatives and friends arrived at the Armory.

Afterwards, numerous accounts of the service of those at PMC were noted including the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Cadets of the Pennsylvania Military College Rushed to Scene Immediately Following Explosion and Placed on Guard Duty — It was the ‘first taste of war’ for the young men and they handled the situation in a creditable fashion. With rifles, the cadets forced back the crowds, which tried to fight their way into the plant yard. They remained on duty for more than five hours and proved of real assistance.”