Munitionettes

Stop number ORANGE 5: Look down the hill and you will see a CWGC headstone for Private C Lowe. (His story is still being researched). Walk downhill towards it. Note the area around here is mainly grass. Look around you and you will see large areas in the cemetery that have no headstones at all. These are the public graves. This section in E was still in use well after the end of WW1 so it is more than likely that some of the mothers and fathers, or sisters and brothers or possibly wives of our WW1 soldiers are buried here, in unmarked graves, when their own time came. They would have had insufficient money for a headstone.
Public graves
Public graves
So read the story about the munitionettes, below, to find out the sort of work some of these family members were doing during WW1. When you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for A King.

Munitions girls at Birch and Co H S Broom
Munitions girls at Birch and Co (SWOP MHW08670) Munitions girls at H S Broom (SWOP RHW12026)
Mary Ann and Ada, Munitionettes

Hello, Im Mary Ann and I work for Birch and Co, and this is my friend Ada and she works for H S Broom. We're munitionettes. I was a chair caner before the war began and now I work for the same company but Im making munition boxes instead. The work is not as skilled as Im used to but the demand for fancy furniture has dropped and munitions is where the jobs are now. So we're here to represent all the girls, our identities no doubt soon to be forgotten, who work long and hard to help our lads at the Front.

Munitions work is plentiful in Wycombe, some girls make the boxes, like me, others the shells for the explosives, like Ada, and others the wooden rattles which warn of gas attacks. But were all doing a good job, us working women, as good a job as any man could do and its working well for our self-esteem. If this doesnt prove a womans worth I dont know what will.

We work in different groups, each group having our own particular job to do. As Ive worked for the company for some time (even when my children were young Id still be caning chairs back at home) theyve put me in charge of my own group but were all still under a factory foreman.

Its repetitive work and it can get very dusty in the workshops and some of us are having breathing problems. But theyre a good crowd, although Ive heard some very sad tales about their fathers, brothers or sweethearts at the Front. And some of these girls have had to grow up fast, taking on responsibility for managing the home whilst their husbands are away.



Hello, I'm Ada. Fortunately I only have to make the metal shell cases and we dont have to work with explosives, were not like the canaries up in London, well that's what we call them, those girls who they say have turned yellow because of the hazardous materials theyre working with. I'm glad I'm not one of them.

Our health and safety isn't something that our employers are much interested in as they have contracts to meet and there's always someone who will take your place. Its good money though and the wages are encouraging a lot of the younger girls to come and join us.

Our Wycombe munitions factories have been converted from the workshops of chair factories like Birch and Co, or engineering firms like H.S. Broom, or Dexters. Were called Munitionettes which sounds fancier than it really is as the hours are long and exhausting. Were expected to work quickly but efficiently, sometimes working twelve hour shifts, six or seven days a week, and sometimes even overnight. You get very tired so its really a job for the younger girls, although some are very young and must find it difficult to stay awake. And those of us, with children still living at home, have to juggle our time as best we can. But were all doing our bit, all vital work to help win the war.

Most of the women employed in the munitions factories are like Mary Ann and me, working class. You may never discover who we are or where we worked because we are merely women. Unlike many of our husbands, brothers or sons we will survive the war but, when our time comes, many of us will lie buried and forgotten in the cemetery in unmarked public graves.

Mary Ann researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Sharon McEwan, Friends of Chesham Cemetery Ada researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Julia Bolden
Mary Ann researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Sharon McEwan, Friends of Chesham Cemetery Ada researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Julia Bolden


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