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15 October 2014
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From Country Girl to Factory Girlicon for Recommended story

by sylviaparris

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Sylvia Parris
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31 March 2005

I was born on 20 December 1922 in a small village just outside Honiton, Devon. My father was an agricultural worker who had been in the Devonshire Regiment in WW1. My mother was a lady's maid and they were married on Christmas Day 1915, at a small village church, Dalwood, Devon. I had two brothers older than me, and two younger.

I was also in domestic service, working as a parlour maid for lovely gentle folk who had a large house about two miles away from my home.

When the war started the house where I worked was used as a convalescent home for Canadian Airmen, which was ideal for them; acres of lovely grounds in a very quiet area. My age group had to register for war work and in 1942 I got my call-up papers. All very frightening having never left home!

My railway pass was for Lymington, Hampshire to work in a factory for Wellworthys making piston rings for aircraft. I did not even know that there were such things!

We were met at Lymington station by a coach and a van for our luggage, then taken to the factory canteen for a meal. That was scary, most of us had never been inside a factory before. There was music playing, very appropriately, 'Good Night Children Everywhere'.

Then we boarded the coach again and were taken to our new homes. I had met another girl from Devon on the way so we were billeted together, with a very nice, recently widowed lady, and her elderly father. I often wondered what he must have thought of two young girls invading his house.

Our work hours were from 7.30am to 7.00pm for five days, 7.30am to 1.00pm on Saturdays. We did two weeks of days, and then two weeks of nights, with the night shifts starting at 7.30pm on Sundays. The work was very dirty, but you could book a bath at the factory, on a rota basis. I remember when I got engaged, having to try and wash the grease and dirt off my fingers to get the ring on!

We stayed there for three months and then moved to Salisbury to a newly built factory, still the same hours, but it was a bit closer to Devon and easier to get home. I can't remember how much we earned, but I can recall that as I was only nineteen years of age, I did not get paid as much as the other girls, and I can remember not having enough money, on occasions, for my bus fare to the factory and I had to walk - which was not too good if I was on nights.
We did not get a bus pass for factory work, and had to pay the fare out of our earnings.

The war made us all grow up, especially country girls like myself, and we met lots of different sorts, some best forgotten. I decided that when I got married, to my fiance who was in the RAF, I would not want to continue working in the factory. I was not able to leave, even if married, unless I was able to do something that would release a man for the services.

I was married on 25 March 1944, and fortunately my young brother had just started an apprenticeship in a garage in Honiton and I was able to work there selling petrol etc, until I was expecting our first baby. Not a very exciting story, but just one that altered MY whole life like many others.

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