Joyce Hardaker’s Memories



War workRationing.


[Before the war I lived in Shildon, and I went to the grammar school – the Girls’ County School in Bishop Auckland. After I passed (what was called in those days) the School Certificate, although the war had started, I hoped to stay on. But I could only go half days, because the school was sharing the building with another school – it was hopeless, so I decided to leave and get a job.

       It is interesting that – as I was a prefect – I was taught how to deal with gas injuries; we were taught First Aid, as well as everything else.]


War work

I started working in the main United Automobile Services office in 1940 and worked as a shorthand typist secretary. This was ‘controlled employment’, which meant that we could not leave and seek other employment. They took advantage of us in many ways. For example, they would not pay insurance stamps during holidays. As I was proficient, I did get good wage increases. However, in an attempt to improve conditions, I formed a trade union branch and had 50 members before they discovered it. The end result was that, rather than lose me, they wanted to transfer me to Durham, where there were few staff. I opposed it, with background help from Darlington Trades Council. I won the case, but they decided in '43 to release me for ‘war work’. The Trades Council advised me to ask for industrial training rather than the forces, so they had a chance of getting me out.

       I went to Leeds Training Centre. It was not well organised. We were herded together and told to go to various sections. Then we had to do what I considered to be a simple mathematical test. As I passed at 100%, it was decided I could be trained in draughtsmanship. I had to do a week on each section such as sheet metal working, welding, fitting etc. (shift work) and then spend all my time in the drawing office.

        [They sent me to digs – the house was terrible. There were 5 of us, all girls, but it was dreadful. My husband-to-be’s twin sister lived in Leeds, so we went across to her house, and her husband got us into the house next-door-but-one to them. Eventually we got better lodgings. The woman there had five sons, all of them in the forces, so she took in five girls during the war. It was wonderful of her, and they were wonderful digs. Rationing; we hardly knew it was on!]

        As a job in draughtsmanship cropped up in Leeds I was able to take it – the only woman on the job. [Also, I must have been one of the first women to insist on equal pay with the men – and I got it!] Naturally I had to go to Leeds Technical College for further training.

       The factory where I worked had originally produced machinery for textile manufacture. We made among other things capstan and turret lathes, some of which were sent to Russia. We even had the Russians visiting us. One big problem was that our machines were so outdated the operators had to file parts to get the correct size. On occasions we had to visit the factory, but I was not allowed to do so without a male escort.

       When we heard that the Second Front had started and blood was needed for the injured, three of us had to go in our lunch time to give blood. There was none of the careful checking which is done these days, blood was virtually grabbed, though we got a cup of tea afterwards and then had to race back to work.

       I asked for my release in March '45. Whilst this was being dealt with we had a visit from some officials, who pulled my leg about my coming marriage and then asked me why they had bothered to train me in draughtsmanship, as they were terribly short of shorthand typist secretaries. Of course I said because of trade union activities.

       When I married, I had to at least work part-time, as my husband worked in the mines. We lived in Ferryhill and I had to go to Spennymoor Employment Office. My details were checked and I was told to try to find my own job, as I was too highly qualified. Furthermore locally they would not employ a woman in draughtsmanship! One interesting point about Leeds Training Centre was that many of the people training there had been injured in the Forces etc.



I’ve not really mentioned much about rationing. At least the miners got extra rations!