My mum, Elsie Lewis, worked there too. that was where she started smoking as she said they all did!! She was 19 in 1939 and may have been known as Elsie Dixon as she was briefly married at the start of the war, getting divorced later. Before marrying my dad. All she ever told me was she worked on munitions. And she started smoking then!
by Lois Lukett
Camaraderie in the munitions sheds during World War 2 was common. In fact, women often made lifelong friends. This is understandable when you consider the hard labour and complicated male environment women like Elsie were thrown into. Working long shifts in perilous conditions meant that the women often felt protective of one another and it was easy to make friends. Not to mention the enormous social freedoms these women were enjoying, in contrast to life before the war.
Smoking was one of those social freedoms.
Although it was the First World War that directed the focus away from smoking being viewed as a male only past-time, women were still often excluded. However, with the Second World War, and the second departure of the men, women had more freedom than ever before.
Smoking was always seen as a sociable habit, and working closely together, for long hard shifts, meant that sharing cigarettes was one of the few things that the women in industry could enjoy together. In fact, the number of female smokers in the UK actually rose during the Second World War years, with more than 30% of women becoming regular smokers. Although this cannot be thought to be only a result of women’s war work, it is clear that conscription was an influencing factor.