Women on the home front

Women on the home front

We bring no glowing accolades. For us no cheers will start. Ours is a gift worth more than gold: a proud and steadfast heart.*

The first air raid on Brighton

The first air raid on Brighton during WWII was on 15th July 1940.  It was damp and drizzly morning, when at 6am a lone Dornier aircraft dropped nine bombs hitting several houses in the Kemp Town area. The roofs were blown off and interiors, furniture and remnants of peoples’ lives were exposed. Yet despite this incident, and the debris of the bomb damaged houses, people went about their daily business. This epitomised the spirit of the town, and of the country. People were determined not to be beaten. People carried on.

Danger, fear, tension and stress 

This is especially true of women on the home front. Danger, fear, tension and stress were part of daily life. Women worked extremely hard, managing work and home commitments, enduring emotional turbulence, fearing for their own safety and loved ones fighting elsewhere.

Contributed to the war effort

As well as fulfilling traditional domestic roles – feeding families despite food shortages, rationing, queuing for food, and ‘making do’ – women also contributed to the war effort, ‘doing their bit’ either by working or joining one of many voluntary organisations. From 1941 many women were conscripted into war service, working in industry, civil defence, transportation, community welfare or agriculture. 

Women’s defence organisations

Local women’s civil defence organisations included the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) who worked on anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries. The Corps of Women Military Police (CWMP) undertook fire fighting duties. Many women joined the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corp (WAPC), or the Brighton Women’s Home Defence League. Initially women’s roles tended to be clerical or minor – for instance WAPC’s were not allowed to make arrests. However as more men went off to fight women’s responsibilities increased.

Helped feed the nation 

The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) provided community support and welfare locally. The Red Cross organised parcels for troops and prisoners of war. The Women’s Land Army (‘land girls’) worked on Sussex farms and parks in the town were temporarily turned into farmland to increase crop production to feed the nation.

The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute 

The NAAFI and WVS ran canteens and provided mobile emergency catering at bombsites. Along the coast women in the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) initially stayed in port, but were eventually taught engineering skills and given more important duties.

Very few received official recognition

Women played important roles during the war but very few received official recognition afterwards. Many found it hard, or were unwilling, to return to their pre-war domestic lives, having attained responsibility and respect in their new roles. Women in Brighton and Hove were no exception, contributing significantly to the on-going safety and well being of the local population.

*Hilda Kaye Gibson

Comments about this page

  • I love these photos. Is it unusual for a BHD bus to have a Brighton Corporation logo on the side if it is the corporation logo? Long ago, but it looks like a corporation trolleybus. 

    By Mick Peirson (30/06/2017)
  • This looks like the section of Kings Road outside the Old Ship Hotel, with the turning into Black Lion Street in the background.

    By Alan Hobden (01/07/2017)
  • Looks like this is outside the Old Ship Hotel, with the turning into Black Lion Street on the right.

    By Janet Beal (01/07/2017)
  • I think it is a Trolley Bus. By the way, I think that when I grew up in the 1960s there were two separate bus companies.  I can’t be sure, but I think in the town both Southern and Brighton Hove & District.  Again I can’t be sure but I think Southern ran from Conway Street and the District buses, which were are a deeper red ran from Whitehawk.  Someone may correct me.

    By Peter Groves (01/07/2017)
  • It is a trolley bus. You can see the pole at the rear of the bus that was used to move the long poles’ attachments from the electric wires to another section when they reached a junction.

    By Ken Ross (02/07/2017)
  • When I was growing up in the sixties, we had red Brighton, Hove and District buses (my dad was a conductor), green Southdown buses which used to go a bit further afield, and blue Brighton Corporation buses which operated from Lewes Road.

    By Janet Beal (02/07/2017)
  • Brighton, Hove & District ran from Conway Street, Hove in the 1950s / 60s (where they still are), and some Southern buses ran from a depot / workshop in Victoria Road, Portslade – next to Portslade Recreational Ground – where the Ford and VW showrooms now stand.

    By Alan Phillips (02/07/2017)
  • When I was a kid in the 40s and 50s there were two companies that ran trolley buses. There was the Brighton corporation which ran from the Lewes Road depot and Brighton Hove and District which ran trolley buses from the old Thomas Tilling bus depot in Whitehawk Road. Not sure if Conway street had trolley’s or not.

    By Mick Peirson (03/07/2017)
  • My dad worked for the Corporation buses throughout my childhood and I was always interested in the local buses. In the early 60s the Corporation buses were also red and cream like the BH & D buses but the red was a much deeper shade than BH&Ds.  The shift to blue and white started around 1970 ish. 

    This link http://showbus.com/gallery/south/index.html takes you to a page of photo’s of preserved buses where the Corporations red and blue liveries can both be seen as can the BH&D red.

    I can distinctly recall the Corporation’s Leyland PD2’s in red and cream and have always thought they were smarter looking in that than in the blue and white.

    By Geoff Robbins (03/07/2017)

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