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15 October 2014
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Working at Bridge End Arsenal and The Day I stole the Green Flag

by cambsaction

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
(Florence) Gwyneth Guest (nee Williams)
Location of story: 
Bridge End and Cardiff
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 September 2005

[This story was submitted to the People’s War website by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of Gwyneth Guest and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Guest fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.]

I lived near Cardiff and went to work in the arsenal in 1939 — the Labour Exchange had directed me there. My brother went into the cadets. There was a massive arsenal at Bridge End with nine different sections with between 60 and 100 workshops in each section. I was only 19 and went there with a group of my friends.

I worked with five of my friends in HE (High Explosives). The explosive looked like mustard powder, and we wore no protection so at the end of each shift we’d go home with a yellow face and bright orange hair and hands!

When we got off the train as we arrived at the factory, we would have to go through a contraband check where any cigarettes, matches etc had to be left, to be collected on the way home. Then we went through an armed police check. At any time they could randomly pick you for a thorough search by a policewoman — I must have been searched around 20 times during the six years I worked there.

The factory was enormous — I was one of 3000 on one shift in one section. So there would have been 9000 on the HE section alone (we worked on shifts around the clock). If I was on the 7am shift, I would have to get up at 3.50am (if I’d been up late the night before I would sleep in my clothes in the chair), walk 2 or 3 miles to the station to catch the 4.50am train to Bridge End.

The stationmaster was really miserable. He was not nice to us girls and I was determined to teach him a lesson, so one day I stole his green flag. Without a green flag to indicate the all clear to leave, our train wouldn’t leave the station. A queue of about 8 — 9 trains built up whilst he searched for the flag. Still the front train wouldn’t budge. In the end, they had to send 2 or 3 miles down the track to the next station for another green flag.

Once we pulled away from the station, I revealed to my friends where I had hidden the flag — in my friend Mrs Fox’s aluminium leg! It’s probably still there now!

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