million women in the United Kingdom had
paid employment, but most would have expected to leave as soon as they married,
or when they had their first child. Women were one-third the total workforce in
the metal and chemical industries, as well as in ship-building and vehicle
manufacture. They worked on the railways, canals and on buses. Women built
Waterloo Bridge in London.
The Women's Land Army/Scottish Land Army was
reformed in 1938 so that women could be trained in agricultural work, leaving
male workers free to go to war. Most WLA members were young women from the towns
and cities. Land Army Girls
anti-aircraft crew, 1941 ©
Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was reformed.
Women aged 18-50 who lived close to near naval ports could apply. The WRNS was
in charge of ship maintenance for the Royal Navy.
The WRNS also helped with secret planning for D-Day.
The Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was created.
Among other duties, they boosted the numbers in the Royal Observer Corps,
maintained and flew barrage balloons. Some,
mainly from the voluntary First Aid Nursing Yeomanry,
worked with the Special Operations Executive, dropping into enemy territory and
working as saboteurs, couriers and radio operators.
Elsewhere overseas, female nurses in military field
hospitals worked near the front line of battle, and many served with allied
forces such as SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces). Women
also came to Britain as members of other Allied forces - such as the Women's
Australian Air Force, and its Canadian and American equivalents. Others came
from across the then British Empire to serve in the ATS. At its peak the British
auxiliary forces consisted of nearly half a million members.
woman in Britain aged 18-60 had to be registered.
Service Act (no 2) made the conscription of women legal for single women aged
90 per cent of single women and 80 per cent of married women were employed in
essential work for the war effort.
Day, London, May 1945 ©
of permanent women's forces
Land Army ended service to aid in postwar food shortages
Voluntary Services proved itself too useful ever to disband and continues today,