About ROF 59.
Royal Ordnance Factory 59 was an 867-acre group of buildings built in the early 1940s, designed to produce bullets, shells and mines for the war effort.
ROF 59 employed more than 17,000 people, mainly women, from the surrounding area, who risked their lives every day to manufacture bombs and bullets for our boys in the battlefield.
The people who worked there became known as the Aycliffe Angels after English Language propaganda broadcasts by Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce), a traitor who worked for the Nazis during World War II. “The Little angels of Aycliffe won’t get away with it,” he had said in numerous broadcasts, highlighting the importance of their work, before insisting the Luftwaffe would bomb them into submission.
The 21st Century ROF 59 you see today is the brainchild of John Finley, whose grandmother Olive, mother Dorothy, and aunts Winnie and Teresa worked at the factories during the war.
“It wasn’t something the family talked about,” admitted John.
“People didn’t make a big deal about what they did in the war. My uncle Tom used to tell me about mornings before school when he’d sit on the step waiting my gran to come home from her nightshift and seeing that her hair had gone a funny colour, because the chemicals in the explosive compounds which dyed workers’ skin and hair yellow.
“I had no idea where that work was. It was only when someone in the family told uncle Tom what I was doing, he dug out some old photos and it all came to light.
The new ROF 59 complex has maintained some of the original elements of the building, including brickwork and signage.And over time, we’ll add more memorabilia to ensure Aycliffe’s proud history and the memory of the Aycliffe Angels lives on for generations to come.