- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ivy Wood
- Location of story:
- an engineering works in KEIGHLEY, West Yorkshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 03 August 2004
This story was submitted to the People`s War site by Alan Magson of Age Concern Bradford and District, on behalf of Ivy Wood, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site`s terms and conditions.
I well recall the date June 6 1944, aged 19 I had been employed by the Keighley engineering firm for about twenty months.
It had proved a difficult task settling down in a noisy and dirty atmosphere after initially working in a clean and peaceful workplace.
The Essential Works Order act had left me like many others with no option but to comply. I had to move to where I was directed.
At first I found the shift work a problem and sometimes found the men’s ribald comments a bit embarrassing. However I soon settled down and became adept with spanners and micrometers and all the previously unfamiliar tools associated with a machine shop floor.
Supervision was quite strict, lateness not to mention absenteeism was not tolerated and always had to be accounted for.
Visits to the toilet were also monitored; but many of the girls would risk an extra sly trip for the purpose of enjoying a crafty draw or two on a fag.
A favourite perch for the smokers was to sit with bottoms flopped inside one of the many washbowls. These were cemented into the wall and often became loosened because of the afore mentioned practise.
A notice soon went up and amongst the familiar slogans like “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job” and “Careless talk costs lives” appeared the following,
" Severe disciplinary action will be taken against anyone found sitting in the washbowls.
Signed, Works Manager."
This caused much sarcastic comment from the smokers and much amusement to us all,
particularly when an extra letter was inserted after the s in sitting and the word manager was changed to menagerie. Later for one of us, this hilarity was to fall a bit flat.
One night shift, Linda who hailed from Sheffield, staggered into the loo groaning, she was, she said, absolutely gasping for a fag. She then proceeded to light up her favourite “Passing Cloud" cigarette before flopping into the nearest washbowl.
The came an almighty shriek! The plug had been left in the bowl of cold, and greasy water.
“Oh Hell what am I to do “ she wailed, “It’s clear what I’ve been up to, the foreman’s bound to notice the dirty wet ring around my bum, he’ll report me that’s for sure”.
Happily she was saved, we managed to scrounge some clean overalls from a highly amused store man, and Linda rapidly donned the garments over her under wear. She finished the shift very uncomfortably, not daring to sit down in case her wet knickers etc. showed through.
June 6 1944 found me on day shift; I recall becoming aware of an unfamiliar buzz from down in the lathe section. Something was going on? I switched off my machine and made for the toilets.
The place was agog! There were clouds of smoke and every washbowl had a bum in it.
Women were standing round flushed with excitement; I recall the ecstatic chatter and also the tears. The latter mainly from the women parted from their husbands for some considerable time.
Speculation had already begun, how long before the lads would come home for good?
When would it all end? When would we all be released back to our old jobs?
We returned to our machines with a lilt in our step, hopes soared and visions of a brighter future filled our hearts.
It was truly a happy happy day.
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