Activities, News

Remembering two young women in Hayle 105 years on

Two young women from Hayle – May Stoneman and Cissie Rogers – died in a huge explosion at the National Explosives Factory on Hayle’s sand dunes on 20 December 1916. The factory at the time was producing munitions for the war and was one of the largest in the country. Click here to view a short film about the factory made by Mark Thomas, which includes details of the accidents there.

The two women’s graves are in Phillack Church graveyard.  James Cock, whose grave is in Gwithian churchyard, and George Perry also died in the explosion.

All that remains of the factory now are hollows in the dunes and some ruined brickwork. Click here to view a photogallery.

The history of the young women has been researched by local historian Christopher Berry, and it has resonances now 105 years on.

Since we originally published details of the tragedy on Heart of Conflict, first Ray Rogers, the great nephew of Cissie Rogers then Kay Gibbons, the niece of May Stoneman, got in touch. Kay’s maiden name was Stoneman and her father was May’s younger brother, Henry James Stoneman, who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1930’s.

Together she and Ray are now piecing together a story that got little coverage in the local press at the time, no doubt because it was a sensitive subject linked to munitions and the national war effort.

Chris Berry, however, some time ago tracked down the following article in the Hayle Mail, which contains most of the information that we know about May and Cissie:

HAYLE MAIL Thursday  January 4TH 1917



Much sympathy is felt with the parents and other relatives of the late Belle Stoneman in their bereavement. Mr Stoneman, who is a saddler and harness maker, is serving with the forces overseas, and the death of their eldest daughter is a source of great grief to the parents.

The friends of Mr and Mrs Rogers will hear with regret of their great sorrow in the loss of their daughter Cissie. The funeral took place at Phillack on Sunday morning, December 24th, amid the deepest sympathy and manifestations of the respect and affection of her fellow workers and everyone who knew her. Wreaths were sent by the following:-

‘In loving memory of our darling Cissie,’ from her sorrowing family;

‘With fond love and deep sympathy to dear Cissie,’ from her sweetheart Stuart;

‘To dear Cissie, with deepest sympathy,’ from the directors, manager and staff;

‘With deepest sympathy,’ from Mr and Mrs Hocken, Penmare;

‘With deepest sympathy,’ from the female workers at J and F Poole, Hayle.

Mr Rogers, father of the deceased, has been for some years in the employ of Messrs H T P and Co., Hayle.”

The cause of their death is not mentioned in this report. Chris found the following in Phillack Church’s Register of Burials:

1916 23 December funeral of May Belle Stoneman, Copperhouse, aged 20, killed in an explosion at the National Explosive Works.

1916 24 December funeral and burial of Harriet Isabel Rogers, Copper Terrace, aged 19, killed in an explosion at the National Explosives Works.

As part of our work to commemorate the centenary of the end of WW1, we ran poetry workshops in Hayle looking at key aspects of the town’s history. Many of the poems written feature Cissie and May.  To download a copy of the booklet we published at the time, please click here.

If you would like a hard copy of the booklet, we can post one to you (cost £3 includes package and postage). Text 07772 018 014 or mail