Irene Wilson (nee Coates)

My mother, Irene Wilson nee Coates, worked in the tracing office in Vickers before I was born in 1946. I am sure I am not the only child who had memories of having their bottoms wrapped in plans on tracing linen which had been washed until all the starch was removed and made into all manner of things. I wish I knew what top secret plans were utilised this way.

My dad Andy Wilson was a plumber in the yard also. He never had a day of work and even had his heart attack in the yard. My mum was widowed aged 45. By this time I was in my first year at college so she was alone. Vickers came up trumps. They offered her a job in the tracing office where she had worked during the war, and she worked there until her death 10 yrs later.

by Lynne McGovern

Without the right technical drawings, no vessels would have been produced at all in Barrow Shipyard.

Although Irene and other women who were able to work in the offices were in less immediate danger than those working with machinery and explosives, life in the tracing office would not have been much fun! Everything that women like Irene were working on, would have been top secret. In fact, not even the names of the ships would be written on the paper. Instead, the drawings would be given coded numbers. And with Barrow shipyard churning out more than 250 vessels over the course of the Second World War, each with drawings of individual sections, there was a lot of work to be done.

Women just like Irene would be churning out complex technical drawings on a daily basis, and just like the women in the munitions sheds, they too would be working long hours.

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