ON this day, 75 years ago, a huge explosion rocked the city of Hereford, smashing windows in surrounding villages and causing people to rush into the streets, fearing a bomb had been dropped.

County residents living several miles from the Royal Ordnance Factory at Rotherwas felt the shock of the explosion on 30 May 1944.

A fire, believed to have started in a filling station within the factory, had ignited a 2,000 pound bomb, setting off a catastrophic chain reaction.

Witnesses at the time described a column of smoke rising from the site, whilst hundreds of those with relatives on shift rushed to the factory gates.

The fire services of four counties were immediately mobilised, and soon 55 pumps were in action or standing by, while numerous Red Cross and Services ambulances also rushed to the scene.

The magnitude of the explosion led to fears that there would be a huge number of casualties.

But fortunately, a large scale evacuation of many of the personnel working in the danger area had been successfully managed by officials on site.

And thanks to the prompt action and work of both the factory and National Fire Services, both the factory and a large section of neighbouring Hereford were saved from devastation.

Two workers - William Constantine Walton and Frederick Smith Raper were killed by the blast and 29 others were injured, some seriously.

Despite the casualties, a much more serious disaster had been averted by the bravery and heroic actions of several factory and emergency services personnel.

For their actions, Harold Davies, Frederick Tyler, Vincent de Lisle Cary, James Little and Frederick Lewis were awarded the George Medal for gallantry.

Factory Superintendent Digby Ovens was awarded an OBE, whilst another member of staff received an MBE, nine were awarded British Empire Medals, and 34 others were commended.