Bolton Remembers the War Logo
A Woman's Work - Life at Home and in the Services
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Nellie Shaw

I lived at home. So I used to catch the bus at quarter past six in the morning, and I caught the half past six Belmont bus from town, so when I got off the bus, which was near Wilkinson's Sanatorium, walked up the path. If it was summer, I used to bring the cows in on my way, and if it was winter, unfortunately you mucked out when you got there, and then we milked. There was no machines. There was no electric on the farm either. And then after you milked you had your breakfast, cooled your milk, got it into kits, and went delivering. It was the milk float for about twelve months, and that's the horse that I had photographs with. Then he got a van! So, not that first hay time the next one came around, I must have been driving because I took it on my own at busy times. I don't know, surprisingly enough when I went to this school to tell them, one little boy put his hand up and said ‘You wouldn't have to pass a driving test would you?' I said ‘No, I didn't'. Because you didn't at that time. So, there were milk jugs left on doorsteps. We'd very few bottles, or otherwise the door was just left open and you walked in and put the milk in. No, I enjoyed that bit.

And then you'd to wash all your cans and things and then the afternoon was spent doing what you had to do outside, which was muckspreading - which I didn't do a lot of. We also grew potatoes, kale and wheat, which normally dairy farmers wouldn't do, but we had to do, because the War was on. You had a digger for potatoes, it threw them up, but you had to pick the potatoes, and if it was muddy, you left your gum boot behind! The kale you cut, and then of course, wheat came at the back end, when the harvester used to come round. When it was hay time in the summer, Irish... You used to get Irish men then come hay time, and you always got the odd man or a friend trotting up doing something. You know horrible jobs like taking lant out and things. There was one bloke who didn't mind doing that! So I was actually out of our house thirteen hours every day. And in summer, when you'd finished, because it was double summer times... when you was hay making you could work later, so it was later than that. I had one half day off a week.
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May Longworth

We were sent to a little place called Mill Meece near Stafford, and the base was called HMS Fledgling and engineers who were still in the Navy taught us different branches of the work. They divided us into groups, you could either be an engineer, that is working on the engines or you could be in the radio or the actual airframe. There were various other things, and I was chosen to be an airframe mechanic. For training, we were given a little piece of metal to begin with, an irregular shaped little piece of metal, and we had to file it and use micrometers to get it to an exact rectangle, the measurements they told you. That was the first little bit, and then in the training we had to learn how to splice metal cables which would be used to work the rudders and the ailerons of aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm. We were shown how to dope the linen that covered the wings of the early aircraft, the biplanes. When you are doing that you had to drink a pint of milk a day to combat the dope, they called it, that they put on the material to preserve it. There were lots of other little bits of training and at the end of each section we had an exam. If you didn't get through you had to do that fortnight again, till the end of the course, which I think lasted about 4-6 months. I'm not quite sure how long it was. And then we were sent to a base and my first base was at Inskip, near Blackpool. There we were put into a gang with about 3 other Wrens, making 4, and a Royal Naval Engineer over us to supervise. We had to do the checks on the aircraft more or less like you would do a check on a car, like an MOT. You'd do it from a book, and you had to check the various bits, and the first aircraft we worked on were called Swordfish. They were biplanes and you would wonder really how they stayed in the air - because they just seemed to be metal wooden struts and linen covering things - but they did!
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Kath Burke

As a young mother in the War years, there wasn’t only rationing, but all the different tasks we had to undertake. At the beginning of the War, I had two children, one girl and one boy and another girl born in the summer of 1940.
My Mother worked in the munitions factory and she also had members of the RAF billeted in her house. She could not cope with both work and these men so it fell on my shoulders to help a bit at meal times to prepare vegetables and potatoes and baking bread. My father did the cooking because he did not start work until late at night. There were six air force men and three children and two houses to be kept going. So for my part in the chores that meant getting up at 5.30 and keeping going till 7 o’clock at night, when I took my kids home to put them to bed.

I lived around the corner from my mother who lived in a big house that was owned by Eckersley Mineral Waters works. It had six bedrooms. In 1942 I had another child. That meant four all together, all under five years old. These children needed my protection at night because of the air raids as I lived near the railway. My husband worked away - he was exempted from the army because of his job - so there was no help from him. Bringing up these kids took up all the time and money I could get my hands on.

I had a shop bill, at a little shop called Joe Mills, so my kids were decently fed, but for clothes I bought second hand or gave my clothing coupons for garments. Curtains were made of crinkled paper and put up with drawing pins. I cut pennies out of the oilcloth to put in the gas meter for lighting and cooking.

Irene Kelly

My sister Lilian worked at Eagley Mills, and then at Gregory and Porrits in Great Moor Street. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as soon as she was 18. She went on a training exercise in Preston. She had to climb over a wall and put out an imaginary fire. As she climbed the wall she fell over, but got up and said that she was all right. Unfortunately though, it transpired that she had chipped a small part of her spine, which pierced part of her lung. Gradually her health deteriorated. It was nearly a year after the accident when she died on the 24th November 1944. Lilian is buried in Astley Bridge cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves certificate says, ‘In Memory of Private Lilian Kelly W/266664, Aux. Territorial Service who died age 19 on 24 November 1944. Remembered with honour.’

Betty Astle

I lived in Bolton until I joined the Women’s Timber Corps (WTC) in 1942. I worked in forests all over England. The work was very hard for little pay. We had no toilets and no transport to the woods.

We moved to various places, clearing the woods and sending timber to the sawmills. It was often very cold. The only good thing was the fact that we had marvellous digs, and very good food, so we were lucky. Until recently no one had ever heard of us although we were 6000 strong.