Happy memories of wartime work

Date published: 09 November 2009

GREAT-grandmother Susan Jones took a trip down memory lane to the factory where she worked on the mighty Lancaster bomber.

And friends helped her to recreate the wartime spirit by dressing up in their 1940s finery for the visit to the Ivy Mill, Failsworth.

Rose (86) joined the former Avro factory at the age 16 — lying about her age to work on nights with her friend Betty.

Humorous anecdotes flowed during her first trip back to the place where she made parts for the bomber as a riveter and driller.

“It’s been marvellous. It’s brought back such a lot of good memories because I was only 16 when I was on nights,” said Susan.

“We worked 12-hour shifts, seven days a week for the first 12 months until we got the production going.

It was great fun. Nothing fazed us, to us it was just a job.

“When we first went on nights the men were a bit hostile towards us because they thought we were taking the bonus off them. They soon got used to us, they had to. We made them!”

Susan and her daughter, Glenise, who organised the visit, dressed up in the blue dungarees and headscarves synonymous with wartime character Rosie the Riveter.

They were joined by fellow members of the Friends of the Forties group who recreate the fashion, music and dance of the era.

Part of the mill in Crown Street has been transformed into a business centre, but sections are unchanged and instantly recognisable.

Susan, of Barons Court, Failsworth, recalled how she was the fastest riveter on the night shift — made to hide in the toilets when the rate fixer came round.

She added: “I worked on the welding but I came off that because it was making my nose red. I thought there was no way I was having make-up and a red nose so they put me on riveting.”

Susan married her late husband Albert when he was demobbed from the Royal Navy after the war and they also had a son, David (58).

She went on to do a variety of jobs, working into her mid-70s.

The visit was followed by a buffet at the Church Inn, Failsworth, and Glenise (60) said: “Because they worked nights, some of the lads and the girls used to go there instead of the canteen at break time.

“Mum used to spend the dinner money she got from her mum on two port and lemons. She would get up and sing, it was like an early karaoke, and one of her favourites was ‘Ama Pola’, which meant my pretty little poppy.

“After the war they were made redundant, but they did not use that word. They were finished on semi-skilled work because the lads came home.

“They had their own tools taken off them and they were given to the lads. The important job they had done during the war came to an end.”

Susan and Glenise are both members of The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the Royal Navy Association and the Burtonwood Association.

They travel to wartime re-enactment events around the country and Glenise added: “Mum doesn’t sit at home doing her knitting. She’s there on the jeeps and troop carriers on the parades.”