Some skilled workmen were exempt from military service during the Second World War, but many workers were away fighting, so their wives and daughters stepped in to help out in the shipyards and munitions factories.
Given only six weeks’ training for tack-welding and painting jobs and often no training at all except for experience gained during long hours working hours in shipyards, some women worked alongside men, doing riveting, welding and pipe-lagging.
Armies of women were sent in to clean cabins and decks before a ship’s launch.
In 1939, orders were received at the Neptune Yard of Wigham Richardson in Wallsend for engines to be built and installed in the postmaster-general’s twin-screw telegraph steamer and two single-screw cargo vessels of 306ft length for Ellerman’s Wilson Line Swedish trading.
The Neptune Yard saw the keel-laying, launch and trials of at least 10 ships during 1940, including the Aronda and the Iris, and it is possible that the women pictured here worked on one or other of them.
A special edition in October 1953 of The Shipyard, the works magazine of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson on the Tyne and Barclay Curle and Co’s Clyde Works in Glasgow was dedicated to the new administration and drawing offices at Wallsend.
Edited by W G Pearson, The Shipyard gave the workers news of what was going on in the yards and beyond, such as charitable works, sports team results, annual sports days, as well as the latest launches and orders.
If anyone has further information on the yard’s history, they can tell Discover at North Shields Customer First Centre by calling 0191 643 5270 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org