Kingston Aviation
Harry Webb
Transcript: 6
Wartime Shiftwork

In order to meet the demand for new aircraft during World War Two, Hawker workers, around a third of whom were female, had to work long hours. Harry here describes the thirteen hour shifts he had to work as a setter. The factory was operational 24 hours a day and he had to work night shifts too. Not surprisingly after the war he decided he never wanted to work nights again.

The setters had five machines.

They arranged the hours that you worked from seven in the morning ’til seven at night. So you were doing a twelve hour day. And as I was setting – and you did a month on days and a month on nights. So if I would stay – although my shift would end at seven in the evening, if I was on day shift – I would stay until eight to tie up with my opposite number on the night shift. And the next month – when you were eighteen you were able to do night work – and the next month I would do the same but stay until eight o’clock in the morning. So you were doing a thirteen hour shift. And when you- by the time you had cycled home in between the air raids.

Oh gosh, yes.

Had something to eat there was very little time for anything else.

I used to come by bike and I paid a house, just fairly adjacent to the works, that had a lean-to – covered area on the side of it. I paid sixpence a week to put my bicycle in there. And although the leaving times were irregular then so I don’t know how she managed. When it was a regular time, if you could get out pretty sharp, get on your bike to get home you could avoid paying the sixpence.