"Just work and play, just work and play"
Barrow became home to bombed-out Londoners, American G.I.s, Polish airmen and many other nationalities. Women learnt new trades. People became used to blackouts, rationing, "making do” and "pulling together”. It was a mixture of fright, excitement, worry and boredom.
As in the Great War, Vickers professions and crafts were "protected”, meaning that skilled workers were exempt from call-up. Overtime was compulsory and workmen who repeatedly refused could be dismissed and drafted into the armed forces. Again as in the First World War, women entered this male preserve. This time, however, they were not confined to one area, but spread to almost all departments.
In February 1941 women between 16 and 45 had to register as "mobile” if they had no children living at home. This meant they could be directed to war work by the government. Many decided to work in Vickers – essential war work. For those with children an overnight nursery was set up at 242 Abbey Road.
There was a strong unionised atmosphere with very clear demarcation between roles. Strikes were widely considered unpatriotic but they did occur when workers felt that they were being pushed too much. For example, Vickers apprentices went on strike on 18 March 1941 for a 3d an hour increase.
"Shift work was the hateful part about it. At eighteen you didn’t want to be going to work from 2-10, when you wanted to go dancing, to enjoy yourself.”
"Well nobody liked the night shift because we were all nervous of the air raids which we got quite a lot of, and when the siren used to go we had to stop the machine and run for the air raid shelter which was quite a way off."
"Well it made me realise that I could do heavy work, that I could master big machines”