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A woman worker making concrete railway sleepers, employed by LNER, Derby, during World War 2

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:A woman worker making concrete railway sleepers, employed by LNER, Derby, during World War 2
:14 December 1942
:Derby Evening Telegraph
:Derby Evening Telegraph
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World War II brought about major change for women in the services. In December 1941 the government passed the National Service Act (No 2), which made provision for the conscription of women. At first only childless widows and single women 20 to 30 years old were called up, but later the age limit was expanded to 19 to 43 (50 for WWI veterans). As well as conscription and the usual clerical and domestic duties, women did a much wider variety of jobs than they did in World War 1, such as driving and maintaining vehicles, manning anti-aircraft guns and RADAR stations, ferrying aircraft from factories to airfields, deciphering coded German messages in secret naval communications units and working as spies in the Special Operations Executive (SOE). As part of the conscription requirement women had to chose whether to enter the armed forces or work in farming or industry. Many women decided that they would work in a factory. By December 1943 one in three factory workers was female and they were building planes, tanks, guns and making bullets needed for the war. (see between picture numbers DCAV000008 to DCAV000120 for a fascinating series of pictures of the Collaro Munitions Factory at Heanor during the war years). Women worked in all manner of production ranging from making ammunition to uniforms to aeroplanes. The hours they worked were long and some women had to move to where the factories were. Those who moved away were paid more. Skilled women could earn £2.15 a week. (Although men doing the same work were paid more!). The war in Europe ended in May 1945. At this time there were 460,000 women in the military and over 6.5 million in civilian war work.