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Girl power fuelling wartime industries

GIRL POWER ... women workers at Taylor's Foundry in Shields, it's thought during the First World War.
GIRL POWER ... women workers at Taylor's Foundry in Shields, it's thought during the First World War.

SHELLS were among the armaments manufacture that we know several companies in this locality were turned over to during the First World War.

But as much skill and energy also went in to equipping the deliverers of this lethal output.

These lassies may look demure but so far as I’ve been able to tell, their hand may have lain on some of the Great War’s most formidable fighting ships.

This picture returns us to the subject of women who took the place of men in industry during the war.

We saw some of them a short while back in that wonderful photograph of women workers at Wallsend Slipway on the Tyne in 1914.

It prompted reader Martin Taylor to dig this out, which shows a group of women workers at Taylor’s Foundry in Shields.

His late mother, Ellen Farthey, is in the front row on the right.

Says Martin: “It certainly looks as if it was taken at the time of the First World War, when she would have been a teenager.

“Another reader may be able to date the photo more accurately and perhaps identify a relative among the girls.”

Charles W Taylor and Son was founded in 1890, specialising in the manufacture of castings for reciprocating engines and, later, turbines.

Some of these were huge – up to 95 tons – and the hauling of the products of Taylor’s through local streets, to local shipyards, was a show-stopper in its day.

But what exactly was it doing during the First World War?

Well, the excellent Grace’s Guide has a report of a visit to the works by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1925.

At that time, the total output capacity of the works was 10,000 tons a year.

Even more interesting to learn, however, is that only half-a-dozen years after being established, Taylor’s had become contractors to the Admiralty, and that during the Great War, it was solely engaged in producing castings for battleships, cruisers, destroyers etc.

These included some of the most famous names of the day, among them the battleships Queen Elizabeth, Warspite, Malaya, Royal Sovereign, and the Royal Oak, the latter subsequently a veteran of the Battle of Jutland and which would be sunk with devastating loss of life at the beginning of the Second World War.