Eight of Tyneside's Women Workers

Explore the women contributing to the Second World War on Tyneside.

By Discovery Museum

Imperial War Museums

Women in Shipbuilding, 1943 (20th Century) by Ministry of LabourDiscovery Museum

Women's contribution to the war effort on Tyneside

From 1939 - 1945 women's lives were changed when they were called up to assist in war work. In 1941, for the first time, women were conscripted to contribute to the war effort if they met the requirements. Here are eight Tyneside women whose work changed in the Second World War.

Emily Barron Browne (1941)Discovery Museum

1. Emily (centre) and her colleagues

Emily joined the Air Raid Precautions Wardens Service (ARP) as a volunteer in 1939. She wrote an account of an air raid in 1941. In one night, she survived a building explosion and dug her way out of a collapsed air raid shelter, escaping with burns and cuts.

Charlotte (1944)Discovery Museum

2. Charlotte in her Women's Land Army uniform, 1944

Charlotte was born and grew up in Gateshead.​ She joined the Women's Land Army (WLA) in 1944 after hearing about it from a friend. She was sent to Beaulieu in Hampshire, where she enjoyed working outdoors with the other women.

WRENS uniform (1939/1945)Discovery Museum

3. Dorothy's uniform

Dorothy was trained as a telephonist in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and worked in radar throughout the war, tracking naval planes. This was her third officer uniform, a high-ranking role.

WRENS at Hebburn Docks (1945)Discovery Museum

WRNS at Hebburn Docks, 1945 © IWM A 28275

The uniform was very popular and some women joined just so they could wear it. The tricorn hat was later produced in different colours for civilians.

Joan Choate (1944)Discovery Museum

4. Joan and women's roles in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force

Joan lived in South Shields and worked in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).  
Although we know little about Joan's work, women worked as drivers, radar operators, mechanics and on barrage balloon sites, manning the balloon stations.

ATS at Lowesoft Suffolk (20th Century) by DonatedDiscovery Museum

5. Violet (centre) and her colleagues, 1945

Violet was from Newcastle. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1942 after being called up. She was sent to Fenham Barracks where she was chosen to go into the ATS. She trained in radar and worked in Wales and Suffolk.

Women in Shipbuilding (20th Century) by Ministry of LabourDiscovery Museum

Supporting the war effort in other ways

Not all women wanted to join the services or were able, so they supported the war effort by working in roles that were traditionally done by men.

Portrait of Vera (1939/1945)Discovery Museum

6. Vera

Vera worked in the wages department of Vickers-Armstrongs, Newcastle.

Alice Irving (1939/1945) by Donated imageDiscovery Museum

7. Alice

Alice was from Gateshead. She was a bus conductress, a role that first became available to women during the First World War. They were also called 'clippies.'

Vickers Armstrong (1942)Discovery Museum

Women at Vickers-Armstrongs, Newcastle

Hundreds of women were employed at the Vickers-Armstrongs site in Newcastle. It was a dangerous job. The factory was a target for bombing and the women had to keep working during air raids. 

Unknown shipyard welder (1939/1945) by Cecil BeatonDiscovery Museum

8. Audrey

Audrey was a shipyard worker at Swan Hunter's yard, Wallsend. She was a tack welder. There are no photos of Audrey. Women who worked in the shipyards still do not have any official government recognition for their wartime work.

Image - An unknown welder, Tyneside​ © IWM DB 65

Shipyard workers at Swan Hunters (1945)Discovery Museum

Workers at Swan Hunter's yard, Wallsend, 1945

After the war, Audrey was rejected from a job at a garage in Billingham. Despite her training in welding, she was told it would be "unfair on the men" to stop swearing. They wouldn't accept her because she was a woman.​

After the war, men returned to their former jobs and many women were made redundant from their wartime occupations. Some returned to their previous jobs or became solely responsible for domestic duties.

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