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Women of the Home Front in pictures


Towards the end of the 1930s, war in Europe seemed inevitable and Britain began to prepare. This time its population would be on the front line and mass mobilisation would be needed on an unprecedented scale.

Women would have to take on new civilian roles and join the armed forces, releasing men to fight. By 1944 over 7 million women were engaged in war work with over 640,000 in the armed forces and more than 80,000 in the Women’s Land Army. These women played a significant role in supporting the war effort and keeping the country running. Here are a few images of women serving in uniform across the armed forces in the Second World War... 

Wrens (WRNS - Women’s Royal Naval Service) attached to the Fleet Air Arm, wearing pilots’ uniform, placing a wireless in a Westland Lysander in September 1942. These were the first Wrens to fly.

20-year-old Lewis Betty and Peggy Clarke of Gateshead cutting logs in a Manchester timber farm, June 1945.

Women of the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) who repaired army vehicles at a Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) workshop in 1944.

Plymouth’s team of women navvies completing their Blitz-time ambition on 7 August 1947: working alone as a team without male supervision, they have brought the house down unaided. They loved the work and would continue as an all-women gang in the future.

A woman in a Ministry of Supply munitions depot works on the caterpillar track of a tank in 1941.

These four women of the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) are working on the Rolls-Royce engine of a Hurricane, July 1942.

Extracted from Women of the Home Front, with an introduction by Elisabeth Shipton.

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