Miss May Emma Constable
Rank or Title
Date of Birth
Date of Death
7 Mar 1918
Media files and documents
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
May Constable was born in Fenny Stratford in 1896 and during WWI was one of the many female workers, known as munitionettes, who worked in George Kent's fuse-filling factory at Chaul End. She died on 7 March 1918 from burns caused by an explosion at the factory. She is named on the George Kent Roll of Honour along with 3 other women and 6 men as "lives lost through explosions in the manufacture of armaments".
The Ministry of Munitions Act 1915 enabled the government to take over or use factories for war work and the new factory belonging to George Kent at Chaul End became a National Fuse Filling Factory in June 1916. The predominantly female workforce spent long hours filling fuses with explosives such as TNT which turned their skins yellow earning them the nickname of canaries. They were in constant danger from accidental explosions.
The explosion which led to May's death occurred on 1st March 1918. May suffered burns and was taken to Luton's Bute Hospital where she died from blood poisoning six days later aged 22. The Luton News did not report the incident at the time since newspapers were discouraged from reporting such events in case it should affect the morale of the civilian population.
However, the North Bucks Times of 19 March 1918 reported on her funeral describing it as semi-military in character.
The coffin was conveyed from her home to the place of interment on a gun carriage, supplied by the Royal Engineer Depot, drawn by four horses and accompanied by a bearer party of Royal Engineers. The coffin was draped with the Union Jack and covered by a large number of wreaths sent by members of the family and sympathisers. Leading the cortege to the cemetery was a contingent of the deceased's fellow workers at the factory numbering some sixty to seventy, who had come to pay a last tribute of affection and respect to their late comrade, all of them wearing a uniform of the factory.
The people of Fenny Stratford have since paid tribute to this young girl with a memorial stone on her grave in the local cemetery stating that she "laid down her life making munitions for her country". The grave can be viewed on this memorial website.