Barbara Twomey (nee Coulthard)

My nan, Barbara Twomey (nee Coulthard), worked in the shipyard during World War 2 operating a machine that made washers. She said that health and safety wasn’t what it is now although they did have hair nets. Everyone was told to keep their hair net on, covering all their hair. One woman unfortunately left her fringe out, and as she was bending down to pick up the washers, her hair was caught in the machine and it pulled both hair and skin off her head. The supervisor called everyone round to see what had happened, and what would happen if you didn’t wear the hair net!

by Carley White

Working in the shipyard and the connected munitions factory was dangerous and potentially deadly.

There wasn’t a lot of time for the women like Barbara to be trained on the machinery, and they certainly weren’t trained to the same level as the men they were replacing. This left open the possibility for accidents to occur. When you also factor in the long hours that were worked, usually 8-12 hour shifts, it is no surprise accidents occurred.

A lapse in concentration could cost the lives of the entire factory!

Whether the women were working on the machinery to create the casings and shells, or filling these shells with explosives, the work was incredibly dangerous and could have a range of consequences. While the toxins in the powders and chemicals regularly caused rashes and breathing issues, a moments lapse in concentration could cost the lives of the entire factory, and seriously set back the war effort.

Women like Barbara were risking life and limb on the home front.

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