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15 October 2014
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My time as an 'Aycliffe Angel'

by Hazel Yeadon

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Contributed by 
Hazel Yeadon
People in story: 
Dorothy Addison (nee Robinson)
Location of story: 
Newton Aycliffe
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 December 2005

The memorial to the Aycliffe Angels in Newton Aycliffe town centre

DOROTHY ADDISON ( nee Robinson)

Dorothy was brought up in Gateshead with her two sisters and a brother. After school she worked for a lady who ran a school at Low Fell and this was moved to Holwick during WW11. The mothers would go for a week at a time to help and Dorothy also went. However, she felt she wasn’t doing much towards the war effort so got a job working at the munitions factory in Newton Aycliffe and become one of the 20,000 ‘Aycliffe Angels’. This is a speech she wrote for Middleton WI.

I got lodgings in Darlington and if I was on an early shift would get up at 4.30 am and walk through the park to meet my friend, Mabel. We would then walk to North Road Station and get the train to Heighington Station ~ the one before Aycliffe Station ~ so ‘the enemy’ couldn’t see where we were going. We then took the bus to the factory.

I was on ‘Group Five’ and our job was to weigh cordite, put it into linen bags and sew gunpowder on top. This was put into ’25-pounder shells’ and the next block had to put the detonator on top! We were searched and if anyone was found with matches, it was instant dismissal! We wore protective clothing and shoes that didn’t cause any friction and our hair had to be tucked in a turban. I remember one girl in the next block getting her hair in a machine and being scalped ~ she died!!

German bombers often came over and all the lights had to be out. One night they came over ~ we knew the sound ~ the siren went and we all had to go into the shelters. The sky was lit up with hundreds of ‘chandeliers’ ~ our name for bombs. One was dropped in a field in Heighington and when next we were on a day shift we saw the crater from the train and realised we had been very lucky.

There were very few men working at the factory. There were two in our group, as they were medically unfit to go in the forces. The manager used to come into the canteen, blow up a balloon and could play any tune anyone asked for, on it. There was also a girl from Shildon who used to whistle just like Ronnie Ronald. One day we had a visit from King George VI and the Queen Mother. I noticed the King was wearing make-up, as well as his wife. Another day we were entertained by none other than Gracie Fields. She sang The Lord’s Prayer and it was lovely. What we noticed about her were her false silver nails (even in the 40’s)! Every three weeks I would go back to my family in Gateshead for the weekend, otherwise I didn’t get any holiday. I stopped working there in 1944 due to ill health.

Since then Dorothy has lived in Middleton having met her husband there when she moved with the school. She has brought up her family and had various jobs. She has enjoyed attending Church, the Mothers’ Union and has been in the WI for over 40 years.

The Aycliffe Angels are so named perhaps because Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) who broadcast propaganda suggested that if the Germans found out about the factory the women would become ‘Aycliffe Angels’. There is now a memorial to the Aycliffe Angels in Newton Aycliffe town centre. It was designed by Phil Townsend and shows two women having a break from work. Several of the ‘Angels’ and hundreds of local people were present for the unveiling and blessing of the memorial. The ‘Angels’ also received national recognition at a ceremony at Coventy Cathedral.

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