War at Sea

  • 1st December 2011 − 14th October 2012 | Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Women and Munitions

Women were employed in factories and trades such as printing, textiles and the jute industry before the war. But as more and more men enlisted or were later conscripted, and the demand for armaments and munitions increased, the Ministry of Munitions introduced 'dilution' into the workplace. This was a scheme whereby skilled engineering jobs were broken down into components, so that the less-skilled aspects could be carried out as single tasks by untrained workers under supervision. This brought many women into the munitions industry throughout Britain. Sir William Beardmore was a keen employer of women in his Glasgow factories.

At big munitions factories such the Woolwich Arsenal in south-east London, hostels were built to accommodate the large number of women workers. Superintendents and welfare officers were appointed to recruit and allocate female labour, and were responsible for their discipline and welfare. The Arsenal was the first to introduce a workplace crèche for the babies of munitions workers.

Next: Scapa Flow, Orkney