‘Some people thought we were rubbish. But if we hadn’t of worked there it would have been a poor look out.’
Nearly 6,000 women worked making shells, bombs, landmines and torpedoes at the Royal Ordnance Factory at Rotherwas, Hereford during the two World Wars. It was dirty and dangerous work. At least 29 died a violent death at what was one of Britain’s oldest, and largest, explosives filling plants. Others died from handling the explosives.
In the Munitions marks a period in British history when women coped with adversity inside and outside the factory; childbirth and child care; absent fathers and amorous Americans; sabotage and sickness; hardship and humour; twelve-hour shifts and dubious medical checks:
‘When we went down there everybody had to have a medical and you had to strip off, right to your waist. I didn’t like that much.’
Women in the munitions slipped notes in with the armaments ‘so the soldiers knew we were thinking of them.’ They found themselves on the receiving end of bombs: ‘A girder struck my leg. I thought I’ll never get out of here. This is my lot …’.
And sometimes they feared the worst: ‘My aunt said: “We’re going to work tonight and I’m not coming home tomorrow.” She never came home.’
Compiled from interviews with former workers, and presented as told, In the Munitions is a diary of those days. ‘What a terrible thing, working our lives out to blow other people to pieces.’
Published by Herefordshire Lore in association with Logaston Press. In the Munitions is a Local Heritage Initative which is a partnership between the Heritage Lottery Fund, Nationwide Building Society and the Countryside Agency. All profits from the sale of In the Munitions will go towards furthering the work of Herefordshire Lore.
Paperback | 128 pages | 171 x 242 mm | 2003
Over 60 b&w illustrations, mainly photographs
In association with Herefordshire Lore