Barrow’s Shipyard Women WWII

During the Second World War, much like the Great War, women were called to work in industry, filling the jobs the men had left behind. In Barrow in Furness, this meant opting to work as part of the Women’s Land Army, the Steelworks, or of course the Shipyard.

This project aims to capture the experiences and memories of Barrow’s shipyard women of WWII.

The women that were directed to war work, and opted to work at Vickers-Armstrong, found that instead of being utilized solely in the munitions sheds, they were spread across all the departments. From lathe operators to crane drivers, Barrow’s shipyard women tackled a range of jobs and roles. They worked the same shifts, in the same conditions and doing the same jobs as the skilled professional men that were exempt from call-up.

During the Second World War, Barrow’s shipyard employed almost 18,000 workers. The national percentage of women in these industrial roles rose during this time, from 19.75% to 27%, so we can comfortably estimate that at least 3,000 of Barrow’s shipyard workers were women.

At the height of WWII, a submarine was being completed every two weeks in Barrow in Furness.

The HMS Ithuriel (H05)- built in Barrow and launched on 15 December 1940. Used for several operations during the Second World War.

Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow in Furness completed and delivered an astonishing number of vessels during World War II. These amounted to two aircraft carriers, two cruisers, an aircraft repair ship, 12 destroyers, 112 submarines and 35 transport vessels of various types. In fact, at the height of production, a submarine was being completed every two weeks! But this list of achievements would not have been at all possible if it wasn’t for the women that propped up the war effort. This project is focused on telling their collective story.

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