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15 October 2014
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My War Time Workingicon for Recommended story

by actiondesksheffield

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Eugenie Balderstone (Nee Eley), Lady Ursula Manners, Ernest Hayden (Sonny), Kathleen Beesley
Location of story: 
Grimsby, Wroxham, Grantham
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
02 June 2005

'This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Eugenie Balderstone and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.'

My War Time Working

Eugenie Balderstone (Nee Eley)

When the 2nd World War broke out in 1939, I was seventeen and working at Ticklers jam factory in Grimsby. My parents came from Hull. We had a shop, a general store, close to the 'Docks' in Grimsby.

My mother Amelia (Millie) made and sold hot cakes. I helped to deliver them on early mornings before going to work. My eldest sister Florence (Florrie)was married. My other sister Georgina (Ena), who was 18 months younger than I, worked locally as a braider for Sleights.

During the summer of 1940, a group of us girls from Ticklers, were sent to assist with the fruit production at Hoveton St. John nr. Wroxham. This was only for a few weeks because the people on the farms there couldn't get the fruit to Grimsby. Some of the jam made by Ticklers was for the armed forces. We hoped that soldiers in France ate our jam.

When I returned from Norfolk, I decided to join the ATS. My father Ernest (Tim) worked as one of the Recruitment Officers at the Duncombe Street branch.

During the 1st World War he was in France in the ASC, now (RASC) in transport, driving a lorry. Before that he played a piccolo in a military band. The Royal Warwick’s regiment (overseas). He objected to me joining the ATS being concerned about my health, since I had recently had meningitis.

Instead I went to work on munitions at British Mark (Marcos). In Grantham I was interviewed by Lady Ursula Manners, the Duke of Rutland’s sister. It was at her suggestion that I agreed to work in the loading sheds. My job was filling shells with TNT powder. I was paid an extra penny an hour risk money for this work. This was, I thought, my contribution to the war effort.

The munitions factory in Grantham was a large site. My sister Ena came to work at Marcos; she was on a milling machine. This was at a different part of the site from where I worked. The loading sheds were further 'up in the hills'. Sometimes we had to go down into the magazines (mags). Stored in the mags were two different types of powder. There was black powder for tracer bullets and yellow powder for filling the shells. I only ever worked on the high explosive (yellow) powder. This stained our hair and skin yellow. It It used to burn and sting. We got skin rashes, even though we wore masks and overalls.

The working conditions in the factory were strictly supervised. We wore protective clothing such as rubber boots and caps covering our hair. We changed and left personal items in our lockers. Cigarettes, lighters and matches were forbidden. Often, we were checked before going into the sheds to start our shifts. We worked 12 hour shifts; a fortnight on days, then a fortnight on nights. Later I went onto permanent nights. During the changing of shifts from one to another, sometimes we would take a long weekend break. On one occasion, whilst at home in Grimsby, I stood too close to the black grate's oven door. Catching my arm on it, the skin very quickly peeled away. I realised I must be more careful in the future. However, after it healed up I continued to work in the loading sheds.

Many people from Grimsby worked at British Mark. My future husband's mother, Cora was there as well as some of the girls from Ticklers. My father eventually came to work at Marcos since he was no longer needed as a Recruitment Officer. Despite there being a war on, the long hours and dangerous work, I made some good friends. Marcos had a big social hall. I enjoyed many a night out in the social club singing and dancing.

Towards the end of the war (around 1944), I had an accident. There was a routine before and after an air-raid. Once the warning siren went, everyone had to get out as soon as possible to the shelters. It was my job (as it was someone else's on another shift) to rush around and see that the machines were shut down before I could go to the air-raid shelter. After the all clear, it was my job to check that the machines were safe to start up again.

One night as the siren sounded, during black-out, whilst hurrying to shut the machines down, I slipped on one of the duckboards outside the machine sheds and cut my knee badly. It healed up quickly but my leg began to swell up. My father suggested that I needed a change. He said that I had worked long enough with high explosive powder. I joined him working in the bonus office.

My leg continued to play me up. I returned to Grimsby on sick leave to convalesce. On VE Day, 8th May 1945, when Churchill spoke at 3pm to say the war was over in Europe.
I was with my mother at Grimsby Hospital. My leg was so painful, there was a possibility of having my toe amputated. I thought I might lose my right leg. Fortunately, this didn't happen.

I married Ernest Hayden (Sonny) at Old Clee Church, Christmas 1945. My right leg was still stiff and I couldn't bend it. Even during the wedding ceremony. Ernie had come back after six years at war in October. (1945) Because he was a brick-layer he came out on 'B' class.

He helped me recover as did Mrs. Kathleen Beesley. Ena was home and belonged to Mrs. Beesley's keep-fit class/troupe. I went to her three times a week and she massaged my leg. By 1946 I was feeling much better and I made a good recovery and continued to help my mother in the shop. I never went back to Ticklers. I left it to others to make the jam.


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