My Grandmother Dorothy (always known as Dolly) worked in Barrow Shipyard during the Second World War. She was a crane operator. She told me one story about one of the more light-hearted things that happened to her during WWII. She had just finished work, the night shift, and was heading over Michealson Road Bridge. Everything was pitch black because of the Blackout, and you couldn’t see the hand in front of your own face. She set off on her journey home, took 3 steps and walked straight into a man walking in the opposite direction!
by Louise Bartlett
The Blackout kept Barrow’s Shipyard safe.
The Blackout began in Britain 2 days before the war began, on the 1st September 1939. It affected every household and business owner. The munitions factories and industrial sites, just like Barrow’s Shipyard, also had to adhere to the Blackout.
During the Barrow Blitz, the Blackout rules helped protect the Shipyard from the land-mines, incendiaries, and high explosives dropped by the Luftwaffe. However, two fire watchers were killed in May 1941 when the hammer head crane they were stationed in at the Shipyard was bombed. They became 2 of Barrow’s 83 Blitz fatalities. There were also a further 330 injuries that Barrow’s civilians sustained as a direct result of the bombings.
For women like Dolly, coming home from a night shift would have been challenging, especially in winter.
There were many road accidents during the Blackout, as even though the ban on torches was soon lifted, most people didn’t have access to batteries. Instead they were advised to carry or wear something white if walking in the darkness, and to always walk facing the traffic. Drivers were also restricted to a 20 mph limit.
After working all day in a dangerous Shipyard, the women walking home were still at risk!