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Explosion at IMI, Witton late 1960;s

bear & ragged staff

Brummie babby
My dad, Jack Keirl, worked at Kyoch, ICI and IMI at Witton all of his working life retiring in 1979. He started in 'Lightning Fastener' and moved on to IMI working on the titanium furnaces. These furnaces were housed in an odd shaped purposely built building. A problem occurred one day in the mid to late sixties when the coolant to one of the furnaces ceased to flow, resulting in a serious explosion. My recollection is that the explosion found a weak point in the building and split it in half, the blast escaped through the split and removed roof tiles and blew windows in on houses hundreds of yards away. My dad and his colleague, Wilf Winter, were lucky not to be seriously injured if not worse. The building was repaired by rejoining the two halves of the building with a metal band.
I no longer live in Birmingham and try to relate this story to others and I think they believe I am pulling their leg. Can anybody point me in the right direction to find details or better still a picture of the above. Many Thanks.


master brummie
A very informative thread exists:


Super Moderator
Staff member
The official history of IMI seems to contain no mention of this incident as far as I can tell (the book lacks a detailed index which makes finding anything rather a pain). But possibly not surprising if it didn't involve loss of life or serious injury, unlike the 1973 explosion in the ammunition area which is well documented. I have a note of a new vacuum furnace being commissioned in 1968 but whether this was the result of an earlier disaster, whether it was this new equipment which was the problem or whether it was all something separate, I don't know.

I would have thought that a major incident like this would have merited a report in the local press. Do please let us know if you learn anything more.


Big Gee

master brummie
We lived not far from IMI Witton, and I do remember that titanium-plant explosion as well as the later ammunition one. My late father was employed as an installation and maintenance electrician for Birlec Furnaces Ltd, and I know he did some work on furnaces in the IMI titanium plant. He liked working at IMI as he could walk home for lunch! Whether he was actually involved in the original installation of the furnaces, or sent in to assist in the post-explosion repair, I can't remember. I have a vague memory of the whole thing being kept a bit quiet at the time. Much later, and not long before the titanium plant closed, I worked for a company that supplied production material for the plant. My contact there was called Alan Bratt, if I recall.



Super Moderator
Staff member
An online search of Birmingham papers for the period using search term s IMI, Witton and explosion gave no relevant results