Title: Bomb Girls
Author: Jacky Hyams
On the Shelves: Non-fiction> Historical
They were the unsung heroines of World War II; the wives, mums, and teenage girls, all “doing their bit” for the war effort, clocking in daily to work in vast munitions factories, helping make the explosives, bullets, and war machines that would ensure victory for Britain. It was dangerous, dirty, and exhausting work. They worked round the clock, often exposed to toxic lethal chemicals. A factory accident could mean blindness, loss of limbs—or worse. Many went home with acid burns, yellow skin, or discolored hair. Others were forced to leave their loved one and move to live with total strangers in unfamiliar surroundings. Frequently, their male bosses were coarse and unsympathetic. Yet this hidden army of nearly two million women toiled on regardless through the worst years of the war, cheerfully ignoring the dangers and the exhaustion, as bombing, rationing, and the heartbreak of loss or separation took their toll on everyone in the country. Only now, all these years later, have they chosen to tell their remarkable stories. Here, in their own words, are the vivid wartime memories of the “secret army” of female munitions workers, whose resilience and sheer grit in the face of danger has only now started to emerge. These are the intimate and personal stories of an unforgettable group of women, whose hard work and quiet courage made a significant contribution to Britain’s war effort. They didn’t fire the bullets, but they filled them up with explosives. And in doing so, they helped Britain with the war. (Goodreads 2016)
It is no secret that I love reading accounts from real women who worked during the war. Be it first world war, second world war, korean war, vietnam war, cold war or more modern day warfare. Last year I read and reviewed The Bletchley Girls, which is a book discussing accounts from the Women who worked as codebreakers at Bletchley during world war two. But Bomb Girls focuses on much more every day accounts and women who worked at the ground level, getting their hands dirty (quite literally) to support their country while most of the men were conscripted to go and fight on the battlefields in france/germany. I find this quite interesting actually as well from a personally point of view, because my two grandmas worked during the wartime. One of them worked in a munitions factory and the other worked with telegrams in the post office. Reading accounts from women just like them, just felt so real and gritty.
It shows how they deal with the struggles and the stresses of what they see and feel during this tough ordeal, which is often overlooked in favour of the accounts of the men from the front line. While it is understandable, it is also unforgivable to forget the time and effort they put in, risking their lives daily, working with harsh chemicals, munitions and always being told to not trust others, because “loose lips sink ships” and “careless talk costs lives”. I felt Hyams handled this material with a great amount of respect for these women, and their accounts gave you a great perspective not only of what their personal experience of the war was like, but actually it like you see glimpses of their personalities- dedicated, fun loving, humourous, caring…
I recommend this book to anyone who in interested in learning more about the daily life of those who survived through warfare, and to witness the incredibly friendship and bravery which takes place throughout it.