Bolton Remembers the War Logo
A Thing for a Thing-ummy-bob - War Work
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund
War workers lapel badge for Philison & co (Bolton) ltd

Lilian Mills

I learned to operate a lathe. They were showing you how to grind tools, but it were mostly training on the lathes, you know, to get the correct, how to set them up and things like that. I always remember that you had to fasten, this say, metal bar, you know, that wants turning and you used to set it on, and you used to have a piece of chalk, and you held it near, and where it caught, you know you had to unscrew and turn it round, so that you could get it accurate all the way round, you know. When it got accurate the chalk mark was going all the way round and you knew it were all right.
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Leila Parker

We had to have an occupation for the War. So six of us one day in 1940, decided to go to Burton's, on Halliwell Road, where they were making uniforms for the Forces. I don't know why I went because I couldn't sew at all but we went, and to put it mildly, it was the worst time of my life the months that I was working at Burtons! I worked on trousers and I had to make a pocket, and put a size label on, all in a minute. It was a conveyor belt coming down and it only stopped five minutes every hour, and I never had a break, because I was always behind, and the lady in front of me was behind, but it was an experience, in that I'd never worked anywhere only in a family firm and this was a very, very big firm. And it was certainly an experience, but I was very unhappy. And when I used to go home, I was an only one and my auntie lived next door and I used to cry, and she used to say ‘You're not going tomorrow!' but I had to go because you couldn't stay away.
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Allan Lord

When I was doing work study, when I was in training later, there was one company, and these companies weren't on piece rates, you were paid by the hour, which after Dunkirk worked 70 hours every week. Then they dropped the working week to 60 hours and production increased. You really have no idea what it was like. I mean I was 16 when I started. I was working on a large lathe as everybody else did and you got the skill but you were at it the whole time. You'd no real time; you couldn't go wandering off or anything like that. It wasn't a severe way, you just kept on, you couldn't just wander off and do what you wanted, you were running a machine and you had to keep at it. I worked on all sorts of machines, but we'd two of us on shift and we'd compete with each other as to who would do the most, and there was no payment for it. I'd do 300 of them a night which meant you were going all the time and it was unpleasant because the coolant, what they called mystic, a soluble oil in water, used to go green with the copper and if you got a little cut or anything your hands weren't very clever. On some of them like the forged wheels for the tank, Churchill's was an infantry tank and it would only do about 12 miles an hour, when we doing these and there was no coolant used, chips used to come off red hot and they'd come out. I've had them on my arm, across my eye, and finally we got some pieces for over our face and if you had leather shoes it burned through the soles, and they were rationed. So we bought clogs and on the inside of the iron we used to cut a shape just to fit inside and then nailed it into the wood and then when you stood on these hot things they didn't burn the wood away. I mean that was alright, the company wouldn't complain about you doing that, it was OK but you daren't make cigarette lighters. If you got caught making cigarette lighters you were in the trouble. De Havilland was the place for them, they used to make model aeroplanes, and they made Spitfires.
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Edith Kay née Curtis

Well, I had a friend that worked at the paper mill, and I thought ooh I'd love to work at the paper mill. I thought that was going to be very, very nice, though my Mother wanted me to stay at home and help her in the house, or generally around the place. But no, I pleaded and pleaded. I wanted to go and work with my friend, and I went to work with my friend, eventually, at the paper mill. And that was sorting paper. Until we was a bit older and the War came and a lot of what we did sorting then. I suppose there was a shortage of pulp. There was bags and bags of old books came, and sheets and sheets of the very, very old letters and things from companies, sent to be made into pulp and re-used again. But they were quite interesting, because, for all we was sorting this stuff out... some medical things. I remember at one time, I actually put them in the pulp myself, was relating to, I think it was Stevenson, that built the Rocket, I'm not sure the name, but, at the time, there was envelopes turning up with Penny Blacks on and people used to tear the stamps off and keep them. But there was one relating to railways, and roads being built, which should have been kept, but they just went the way of all the rest. At one time I got Stevenson's signature, I tore it off a letter, I had it lying around for a long time and of course these bits of paper they get missed and... So that was history, and I knew it was history, but I thought, well here we are, we've got a job to do, get rid of all this stuff, it's got to go for pulp.
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Leila Parker

Because I had clerical experience I was sent to De Havilland, in the office in De Havilland. I was in the office at Lostock for a short time being trained and then, they opened four satellites: one in Mule Street of Bury Road, one at Mill Hill off Bury Road, one at Croasdale Street near Kay Street and one in Little Lever. Now I was sent to Mule Street. I would imagine it was a mill originally, and the office was in the centre of the ground floor. I did go to Mill Hill for a short time and I did go to Croasdale Street, but the main job was at Mule Street. I met some really nice people and my best friend, who I met in 1941, only died a few months ago in Bournemouth. But we kept in touch all this time. It was difficult, we had to work nights as well as days, we started at seven thirty in the morning and it was usually ‘til seven at night, and then the night shift came on - nine o'clock ‘til seven thirty. So for only two hours in that twenty four was free from work.

It was very near to that paint works - W & J Leigh's Paintworks. In fact, because we used to see they had some prisoners of War working there, Italians, and they had a round ring on their back. We knew they were the prisoners when they were knocking about, you know. It was a very varied job, because we'd lots of different things to do. With us working nights, we were on shifts, you see, all the girls were friendly together and we'd two men bosses. It was quite a happy time really.
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