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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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In   1916,   the   women   of   Barns   Green   were   able   to   register   their   willingness   to   work   for   the   war   effort   by   visiting   the   local   labour   exchange   in Horsham.   Local   farmers   were   still   resistant   to   employing   women   for   “men’s   work”   and   local   women   knew   that   farm   work   was   hard,   dirty   and   very difficult   to   do   when   wrestling   with   full   length   dresses!   For   the   first   time   ever   the   young   single   women   of   the   village   had   a   choice   of   where   to   work. For   decades   the   only   work   option   for   these   women   was   domestic   service   –   now   they   could   work   in   engineering   industries   which   had   previously been a wholly male preserve, utterly closed to women, but now suddenly available to anyone. It   is   a   measure   of   how   much   the   rural   community   was   affected   by   the   war   that   young   women   from   Sussex   villages   could   be   sent   to   work   in   the burgeoning   munitions   and   aircraft   works   in   Croydon.   They   did   not   commute   to   their   new   jobs,   but   were   billeted   with   local   families   in   Croydon   or lived   in   hostels   created   for   the   purpose.   They   were   paid   far   more   than   they   would   have   received   as   a   domestic   servant,   although   the   work   was   hard, potentially   life   threatening   and   the   hours   long.   But   unlike   their   mothers   and   grandmothers   these   women   had   a   glimpse   of   a   life   beyond   domestic service and marriage – they had independence. Florence   and   Gladys   Sprackling   left   Barns   Green   to   work   in   munitions   in   Croydon.   Among   their   new   workmates   were   Ruby   and   Lizzie   Gorsuch   from Brighton   and   the   four   young   women   became   firm   friends.   In   the   same   way   as   men   going   off   to   war   recorded   the   event   with   a   photograph   in   their new   uniforms,   so   too   did   these   women.Although   not   a   uniform,   munitions   workers   had   to   wear   an   overall   dress   which   came   to   about   mid   calf,   not full   length,   but   still   not   as   practical   as   trousers.   They   also   wore   a   soft   cap   to   keep   their   hair   up   and   every   woman   was   given   an   individually   numbered “war work” badge (the triangular badge just visible in the photograph). The   friendship   formed   between   the   Sprackling   and   Gorsuch   families   continued   after   the   war,   and   in   1921   Ruby   Gorsuch   married   Leslie   Sprackling, Gladys and Florence’s brother.
Munitions Work
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