Friday 10 June 2016

There’s just a week until the unveiling of the Sheffield Women of Steel Statue, honouring all those wonderful women who worked in Sheffield’s steel works throughout two world wars.

Barbara and her mum Gladys worked in the steel works – here are Barbara’s memories from their days as Women of Steel.

Barbara Bell, and her mum Gladys Slack

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“I was nine when the war broke out. It was like living through something that wasn’t real. I remember the blitz in Sheffield when a string of bombs went off down St Phillips Road where we lived, and a land mine was dropped nearby.

“Once the water supply was cut off to the whole street except our house. My mum put a bath in the front yard and filled it, so all the neighbours could come round and get some water.

“For a time the schools were closed so all the children did home service – a teacher would come to the house and teach us all there. We did this in my front room so I didn’t even have to leave our house.

“My mum Gladys worked in the Samuel Osbourn Steel Works from the start of the war, and when I was 14 I went to work there too. I left school and there was no messing about. I went straight into a job. When I started the main thing I remember was how hot it was in there.

“I was in the offices doing invoices, but it was nice when I had to go down and see people in the different sections in the steel works and I could sometimes go and say hello to my mum. But she often did night shifts because the works were open 24 hours a day. So my aunt came to live with us and help to look after my younger brother and me.

“In many ways they were good times. I liked working with all the women. We’re just the same as men really. You get used to the life that you’re living.

“My mum lived to be 101 year old, but has passed away now, and I have great grandchildren who want to hear about what we did during the war. It’s important to remember these stories. I sometimes think I should write a book!”

Barbara is looking forward to receiving her medallion, and Gladys’ at next week’s ceremony and mostly to the unveiling of the statue, creating a lasting legacy of the hard work and determination of the Women of Steel.

The people of Sheffield are invited to join us to celebrate this momentous occasion on Friday 17 June 2016, 11:30 am.