Retirement watch presented to my great grandfather in 1917

The Kentish Independent Newspaper published an account of Stephen John Head's retirement from the Royal Arsenal as follows:



On Saturday last Messrs. L. M. Lang, E. Edwards, and G. F. Ball, representing the managers and foremen of the Royal Carriage Department, Woolwich Arsenal, met at the residence of Mr, S. J. Head to present a testimonial to him on his retirement after 42 years service.

Mr. Ball, in making the presentation, said he had worked with Mr. Head for over 40 years, and could speak in very high terms of his valuable service. Forty years ago there were only 12 employed in the shop, and at the present time there were 209, and he was sure no shop in the whole of the department had improved more in both quality and quantity of work produced. This was in no small degree due to Mr. Head, particularly when marker-out. He asked him to accept a little token of their regard a cheque and gold watch. The latter was inscribed: Presented to Mr. S. J. Head on his retirement from the Royal Carriage Department after 42 years service from the managers and foremen of the above department as a token of esteem and regard. November, 1917.

In presenting Mrs. Head with a gold brooch Mr. Ball said he was very pleased they had decided to share the testimonial, as woman's devotion was a great feature in the success of men, and he hoped Mr. and Mrs. Head would jog along for many years to come.

Mr. L. M. Lang, in supporting, remarked that he had known Mr. Head for 38 years, and could remember the time when as "Steve Head" he was called upon to do the most particular work in copper, and how as a boy he would stand and admire his work. He always found him ever ready to help anyone in trouble, and he agreed with Mr. Ball that rapid strides had been made in sheet metal work. He congratulated Mr. Head in having such a capable partner, who must have helped him considerably during his life, and he hoped they would live for many years to come.

Mr. Edwards, who followed, said although he had not known Mr. Head as long as the two previous speakers, he could speak with pleasure of his connection with him for 18 years, and he thought after such valuable service for so many years it was tragedy to retire owing to ill-health, and he hoped the time was not far distant when he would be completely restored to health.

Mr. Head thanked the gentlemen for their very kind words, particularly regarding his wife, who was worthy of all good things said of her. He would like to have stayed at work a little longer for the good of his King and Country, but it was not to be. He hoped the gentlemen would convey to all subscribers their sincere thanks for their valuable presents, which they would always look at with pride.



Royal Arsenal History - Woolwich, Kent, England

SOURCE: This is an excerpt from a Woolwich Arsenal History that was published on the Internet in 1997. The original document and link no longer exist. I am presenting this excerpt only as a source of information for others who, like myself, are seeking knowledge of the Woolwich Arsenal's history so they may better understand their own family genealogy. I can add nothing more. If you find a link and/or additional historical information about the Royal Arsenal please share them with me. 

The long association of artillery with Woolwich began with the setting up of a gun depot there in the reign of Elizabeth I. In the latter part of the 17th (later the Royal Carriage Department) was opened in 1664 at Tower Place in Woolwich and, in the following year, the gradual removal of gun proof from the Artillery Garden to Woolwich took place. Some thirty years later, in 1695, a laboratory was established (subsequently known as the "Royal Laboratory ") for the manufacture of ammunition and pyrotechnics at The Warren in Tower Place, and in 1716 a foundry for casting brass guns was built there. This formed the nucleus of the "Royal Gun Factory ". Thus the pre-eminence of London as a centre of artillery development was lost in the 17th Century.     

When the Royal Artillery was formed in 1716, Woolwich became its headquarters and its officers, together with the teaching staff of the nearby Military Academy, came to exert considerable influence on the manufacture of guns and ammunition.   

The establishment at the Warren which had been named the "Royal Arsenal " by George III in 1805, included the Royal Carriage Department, the Royal Laboratory, the proof butts and the Royal Brass Foundry, the fore-runner of the Royal Gun Factory. With the addition of the laboratories of the Chemist to the War Department - a post created in 1854 - this organisation of the Arsenal persisted throughout the 19th Century.   

No separate establishments existed specifically to do research, design and development. Nevertheless, from the earliest days, epoch making advances were made, such as the transition from solid round shot fired from a muzzle loader to the explosive filled shell fired from a breech-loading gun, the replacement of gunpowder by cordite as the propellant and the early 19th Century experiments with artillery rockets.   

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the increase in activity in the armament world, the growing complexity of weapons and in particular the serious faults in the ammunition used by the British Army on the Boer War led to the establishment of the Chemical Research Department, Woolwich in 1907. This organisation was the first in the country to be entirely devoted to armament research; it covered explosives and pyrotechnics, propellants, ballistics and materials for armaments. It was the direct and recognisable fore-runner of the Armament Research Establishment. 
In 1915, the engineering design and development of weapons was concentrated progressively into a separate department but the unified Armament Design Establishment began to assume its final shape in 1922 when the design facilities of the three factories at Woolwich ( the Royal Gun Factory, The Royal Carriag Department and the Royal Laboratory) and one at Enfield were amalgamated into the Design Department. 


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