|Wartime women workers at Hawkers
The Hawker factories at Kingston, Brooklands and Langley employed at peak over 13,000 people during the war years. This from a workforce of around 2,000 in the mid-1930s. As in the First World War many of these workers were women and Stella here reflects on the jobs they performed on the assembly lines.
I mean, obviously there were more women who worked there during the war when a lot of women were taken on in different roles. What was that like because obviously aviation – heavy engineering – very, very male dominated, during the thirties I would imagine there probably weren’t that many women working there. So what was that like as a woman, going in, moving into that world?
Well, I walked through to find my father one day [Stella’s father was George Angels, a foreman for Hawkers] and I was amazed at all these women working these machines and got their hair all tied up in scarves, you know. And they said, ‘who are you looking for and I said Mr Angels.’ Oh yes – they tried to tell me where he was. And they said, ‘ are you his daughter’? one lady said. And I said, ‘Yes’, and she said, ‘Oh, he’s very proud of you.’ I said, ‘Oh thank you,’ and went to find him. And he said, ‘Oh they’re nice girls, they are lovely girls, oh they do work hard.’
So I think they obviously appreciated the women, you didn’t hear anything bad about them at all. But I thought it was awful, I wouldn’t have liked to have done that. That horrible, hot atmosphere, you know, and these noisy machines. I couldn’t have done it. But a lot of women did. I think they must have employed a lot of ladies, Hawkers.