Women in Munitions Factories

Discussion in 'The Women of WW2' started by LMBlake, Aug 1, 2013.

  1. LMBlake

    LMBlake Member

    Hello all,

    My main area of interest is women working in munitions factories throughout the Second World War. I've just finished reading the fantastic ‘Bomb Girls’ by Jacky Hyams – a book entirely about women working in munitions factories, with many in-depth, sensitive interviews with former bomb girls, chronicling their jobs and their daily lives throughout the war - I found the book incredibly informative. For example, I had no idea that the factories were open 24/7, or that there were no air-raid shelters for women who were on shift.

    I’d really like to hear any stories/opinions that anyone has about this particular topic.

    Do you believe that it was right that women were not given credit for their work? Should such dangerous factories have been running 24/7?

    If anyone would like to read/review ‘Bomb Girls’, please do get in touch.

    Thank you.
  2. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    The following is an extract from the publication 'The War Around Us' published by the Sentinel newspaper of North Staffordshire. I hope it is of interest. There is also a few details relating to the Royal Ordnance Factory at Radway Green, but I will have to copy this at another time if this is also of interest.

  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    As the fighting services had taken all the men away from those tasks - someone had to do it - and there were only young women to do those tasks - no large scale immigration in those days

    as Tony Blair et al were still in school ..the main immigration started in 1946 when West Indians were imported to fill the ranks of those who had died......who were fighting 24/7 x 365 for years - with

    very few "sick" days. Many men fighting in Africa - Italy - Burma did not have a home leave for FOUR years.....WW2 was a 24/7 basis..unlike to-day when they do a six months tour - then home for

    many months - my three sisters were sent from Dundee to Birmingham to work in shifts for nearly five years...

  4. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    My late mother was a qualified Tailoresss and as such was not a reserved occupation.

    As a result she ended up working at the English Electric Factory at Strand Road in Preston, working in a machine shop operating a lathe.

    She had an accident one day and her ring finger was almost severed.

    Due to her main trade as a Tailoress, she pleaded with the Doctor not to amputate.

    She was lucky that she had almost full use of her finger as she returned to her former trade after the war.

  5. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    Don't usually pass an opinion on forum members posts but can't let LMBlake comment re "should such dangerous factories run 24/7" go without comment...,.

    Have you any concept of what sacrifices the wartime generation - whether male/female in or out of uniform - made?

    I think the term "Total War" covers it!

    As I understand it on attaining 21 years single women had to register for national service and could be allocated to I dust rial
  6. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member

    Sorry.... Fingers too big for iPhone!

    Women allocated to industrial work and could be posted anywhere in the country. Working 12 hour shifts around the clock

    I am sure others with more knowledge will contribute more details.....

    Steve Y
  7. Noreen

    Noreen Member

    My late mother-in-law (Rosie) and her sister (Lily) were both employed in tailoring in the East End but they were sent off to work in munitions in Nottingham. Their mother went with them and they were glad to get away from London. Lily had been buried alive when the factory she worked in was bombed but amazingly she survived. Rosie remained proud all her life of her contribution to the war-effort in the munitions factory and particularly that she had learned to use a micrometer.
  8. LMBlake

    LMBlake Member

    Hi Peter,

    This is an incredibly interesting read! Thank you ever so much for drawing my attention to it.
  9. LMBlake

    LMBlake Member

    I understand that touring in the army is different now - is there any particular reason for that? I suppose WWII was a much more immediate, progressive threat in comparison to modern wars.

    Thank you ever so much for your insight, it's really insightful.
  10. LMBlake

    LMBlake Member


    Thank you very much for sharing this story. I'm so glad that your mother was able to return to her former trade after the war, and that there was no amputation involved. The stories I've read of working within the factories go to show that they were an incredibly dangerous place and, from what I've been reading, other workers were just taught to carry on if one of the team was injured, which makes a lot of sense but is horrible to think about!
  11. LMBlake

    LMBlake Member

    Thank you for your input Steve, I do apologise if I've seemed ignorant or offensive in any way, that was not my intention at all. Merely to start discussion - I cannot put myself in the shoes of the people of the wartime generation, but I'm trying to learn, so thank you for your information and input.
  12. LMBlake

    LMBlake Member

    Thank you so much for this post, it was so inspirational to read. It's nice that Rosie and Lily were able to share the experience and able to learn, whilst still being together!
  13. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    You also must remember that the workers were usually on "Piece work".

    Piece work is when an employee is paid for the number of parts produced. This was usually worked out by a skilled time served Person who would assess each part and calculate how Long on average each Piece would take to manufacture.

    A skilled worker set up the Multi lathe and the semiskilled worker was paid on the number of components produced.

    It is pretty certain to believe that this System, in turn led to persons cutting Corners if possible.

    My mother explained that she and her fellow colleagues laid out the various Tools required for deburring the various sharp edges Prior to taking the part from the machine.

    Most Tools were just different grades of files with a normal wooden handle and my mother had just taken over from her colleague on night shift.
    When it came time to take off the sharp metal Burr, she instinctively reached for the file and started to deburr.

    Unfortunately the previous worker, had for some reason best known to their self, removed the handle leaving the files Tang exposed that usually fits inside the handle.

    The file gripped the sharp Burr and the Tang almost cut my mothers finger off.

    Piece work also meant that large wages were made by those who worked fast for the war effort, but I do think that it also added to the accident rates.

  14. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member Patron

    I think that if the ammunition was needed then 24 hour working was the only answer. I think people just had to accept the hardships. After all most of their men friends and relatives would have been in uniform and serving in dangerous situations, and if anyone ever complained all they said was ." Mustn't moan, don't you know there's a war on!"
  15. Noreen

    Noreen Member

    After the war they were both prescribed 'purple hearts' and later valium and librium to help them cope with the after effects of the trauma they endured through the Blitz and "suffered with their nerves" as they would have put it throughout their lives. I suspect they were not alone.
  16. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Yes but also they had played a useful part in the war effort...when it ended many women had to give up their independent lives at work to make way for returning soldiers and become housewives which perhaps wasn't by then what they wanted.
    But the trauma of war must have been and is something you can't get over, ever.
  17. Amy Dale

    Amy Dale New Member

    Hi Peter, do you know the date that this was published?
  18. ozzy16

    ozzy16 Patron Patron

    Hi Guys,
    Just finished reading this gem of a book, IN THE MUNITIONS.
    It follows the accounts of life within the munitions factory at Rotherwas,Hereford, during WW2 By the women who worked there.
    Many people lost their lives either through illness,accident,and a bombing raid July 1942.
    It's only 114 pages, but I highly recommend it.

    Attached Files:

  19. Reid

    Reid Junior Member

    Thanks Graham - looks like a good read.

    I'm currently up to my eyeballs in material regarding women working during The Great War (for a university assignment), so this will definitely make for an interesting comparison.
  20. HA96

    HA96 Member

    LM Blake,

    not sure what country you meant.
    My late mother in law had no choice in Germany. It was, you either go and do it, or else.


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