My Great Grandmother, Robina Lamb nee Todd, born July 1920, died April 2008, worked as a Lathe operator in the shipyard during the war. As did her Father, Thomas Todd. She worked at Vickers during the most turbulent time of her life. Starting in 1941, after registering as mobile, she soon fell pregnant, out of wedlock, with my Grandmother! From then she married the unborn child’s father, only for the name, parting at the alter and getting divorced many years later. She became a wartime single mother and had to rely on her parents for a lot of support.
Her daughter Enid, became one of the first children to go to Bram Longstaffe Nursery on Barrow Island, as Robina went back to work in the Shipyard.
by Ashleigh Bartlett-Needham and Elaine Partridge
Women’s war work, although dangerous, was socially liberating.
Wartime babies were more common than you might think. In fact, the social freedoms women experienced during the war, mainly due to the war work itself, as well as the impending sense of disaster, meant that people started relationships more readily.
During the Second World War, women were no longer expected to remain at home, and instead were out of the house and in the domain of men for up to 12 hours a day. This not only made women more confident and assured, it also made it easier for lovers to meet. Love, or lust, really was in the air. To the shock of the older generation, many couples no longer felt that waiting for marriage was truly necessary. After all, you could be blown to smithereens the very next day, so what did it matter? And while this was of course very romantic, unfortunately for those who were not in fact blown to smithereens, consequences would catch up. This meant wartime children. And occasionally, there would be no father around to help out with these consequences.
As a result, of the 5.3 million British babies born between 1939-1945, more than a third of them were illegitimate.
While Robina Lamb (nee Todd) was able to marry for the name, which of course protected her socially, it did very little to alleviate the strain. However, other women were not so lucky. In fact, many women that were to have a child out of wedlock had to deliver their children in institutions and have their children put up for adoption.