BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

WW2: My Personal Story: A Teenager and the War: Working at Gillettesicon for Recommended story

by Dorothy Rumbles (nee Bradbury)

Contributed by 
Dorothy Rumbles (nee Bradbury)
People in story: 
Dorothy Rumbles
Location of story: 
Twickenham and Hanworth Area
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
03 April 2004

Like many other girls my teenage years were spent during World War 2, working in factories, on munitions. Most teenage boys were in the Armed Forces.

I started work when I was 14 yrs 1938. The only work in our village was Horticultural, growing carnations and tulips, but when there was talk of war we had to turn some of the greenhouses over to planting tomatoes that was our contribution to the war effort.

I was working on a Sunday morning packing carnations ready for Monday morning market,it was 3rd September 1939, the radio was on, when the announcement was made, War had been declared, silence in the packing shed, our Boss came in to give us our instructions, should the air raid sirens go, He had installed an Anderson shelter in the grounds ,all prepared. He told us Gas masks and Identity cards must be carried at all times etc. He was about to show where the shelter was when the air raid siren sounded,so he took us to the shelter, inside he had put provisions should it be a long stay, and also an old gramophone and some Flanagan and Allan records, one of them he played was Underneath the Arches, so whenever I hear that hear that tune it reminds me of the start of WW2 Fortunately it was a short raid, I can't remember if any damage was done then but it was the start of things to come.

After awhile I had to leave for health reasons, so I had to look further away from home for work, which took me to the Great West Road ,Isleworth, which was about half to three quarters hour cycle ride from home to Gillettes. They also had to convert some space to install large machines , Capstanes, drilling and tapping ets. to make aircraft components, but they still had to produce razors and blades to supply the men in the Forces and civilians. I then became a machine operator, us girls had to were Brown Dungarees. Wooden Clogs, and Snoods on our hair, which was handy if we wanted to keep our curlers in, if we had a date, or was going dancing that evening, not a pretty sight, but we all had to dress the same so it didn't matter too much..

We worked from 8a.m till 7p.m when on days, 8a.m till 1p.m on Saturdays, 7p.m till8a.m when on night shift which was every two weeks, not very pleasant eating dinner at 1a.m. and trying to keep awake around 2a.m. Working at Gillettes we were very vulnerable because their clock was a landmark for aircraft, but of course like every where it wasn't lit up during the war, but somehow, we managed to escape any bombing

Cycling to and fro work in the winter was weird ,no street lamps, our cycle lamps had to be half covered to prevent the light from shining upwards I remember some very foggy nights I had to walk home it took me about an hour and a half, but a least there was no raids those nights, but it was still a bit scary.

I found two diaries 1943 and 1944 looking at the they read "Worked till 7 came home wrote some letters" ( I used to write to various lads that I knew who were in the forces), did some sewing, trying to make do and mend , because clothes were rationed by coupons, my friend's mother was a dressmaker, and lace was not rationed, but expensive, we bought some and she made us a blouse each, we thought we were the cat's whiskers. I think we wore them every time we went to a dance, we always looked smart even though we couldn't buy many clothes.

Any way getting back to my diaries, they consisted mostly of writing letters, or going dancing may be skating on Monday afternoons before going on night shift, where did we get our energy from. Dating was always with members of the Armed forces stationed nearby, but it was hard not to get too involved, because they would be moved on very shortly and it was sad having to say goodbye, not knowing if we would ever meet again. Although some girls did get too involved and found they were pregnant, the chaps were already married but hadn't told the girls. He moved on with no forwarding address the girls were left to fend for themselves with no government help those days, and parents weren't so lenient then, most babies were put up for adoption.

I have an entry for early 1944,letter from Jock, answered it, he was a lad to who my sister had given my address because he wanted a pen pal, this was in March, he was hoping to meet me if he was posted to the south, he even sent me a piece of tartan which he had carried around with him, he said it was for luck. We corresponded a few times , but in May I received a brown H.M.S card with a new address, I wrote, but never received a reply, he was in the 8th Parachute Regiment, D day was in June, I suspect he was in the D day landings, which was in June 1944.

I also read that in November 1944, my friend and I decided to go to a dance hall that we had not visited before, a Sailor and a chap in the R A F both on leave had done the same thing, we were asked to dance by them, and met up afterwards while they were on leave, my Sailor was posted to the far east, we wrote numerous letters, while he was out there, the Japanese surrendered it was on 15th August 1945 my 21st birthday, what a relief, hopefully he was not in anymore danger. He managed to send me an airmail for my birthday also I received a some what battered key card, he came home safely, we were married in 1946 and have a daughter and son and three lovely grandchildren, and he is still my dancing partner, and the one person in the Armed Forces I did get truly involved with.

Looking back I was a very lucky teenager I never really thought about the danger of war, I think we knew that we just had to get on with it, fortunately our village wasn't so vulnerable as those in the southeast of England those people had so much to contend with, and I admire their spirit.

I don't feel that I did anything to be proud of. My only restrictions were having to be home by 10p.m or 11.30 if I went to a dance, or I would be grounded for a week. I can understand that now I am a parent, in fact my or any parent had a lot of worries during the war, how our Mothers managed to cope with the food and coal rationing they were they were the hero's always a meal on the table and a warm fire to come home to We took our Mothers very much for granted, they did a grand job during World War II.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - WW2 - My Personaal Story...A teenager and the War

Posted on: 29 April 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Dorothy

What a grand story! I enjoyed every word of it.

Best wishes,


Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Working Through War Category
London Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy