Voices from the Home
The Voices from the Home Front Project has been launched by the National
Pensioners Convention as part of its contribution to the 60th anniversary of
the end of WWII. This is a joint project involving the TUC and London
Metropolitan University, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
The project aims to commemorate peoples experiences of the Second World War
in the workplace: factories, offices, shipyards, farms, railways, nurseries,
mines and many other industries.
Aims of the Voices
from the Home Front Project
In 2005, the project will:
record memories of and reflections on what it was like at work during the
war. These will hopefully be available on the website of the NPC, London
Metropolitan University and the BBC.
exhibition that accurately reflects the role of trade unions and workers on
the Home Front and how that influenced post-1945 British society.
regional and national events that bring together individuals with first hand
experience of working on the Home Front. This will also include appearing at
the Pensioners Parliament and TUC Congress.
material which can be distributed amongst trade unionists and pensioner
organizations, including the production of a regular newsletter called
Voices from the Home Front.
How can you help?
Nationally, the trade unions played a key role in wartime production and the
mobilization of labour. We would like to know about your experience in a
union: on the shop or office floor, as a shop steward or rank and file member.
If you have a story to tell please get in touch.
We would also like to visit NPC regions to interview Home Front veterans. Can
you help put us in touch with people so that we can organise a regional forum
to conduct a series of interviews?
Q. Is your region planning conferences, meetings or workshops that we could
attend? We can send a speaker, a stall and do interviews.
Q. In each region we are hoping to focus on one or two major
industries/services. For example, in the south-east we will be
concentrating on the railways. Can you suggest an industry in your region?
Q. Does your local branch have contacts with trade union retired members
sections that we could meet?
Q. Do you have photographs, newspapers, union journals or leaflets that relate
to the wartimeworkplace that we could borrow?
Q. Do you publish a regional or local newsletter that publicise the Home Front
project? We can send information on the project to you for articles.
Q. Do you have contacts with the local media or are there events going on that
we could attend?
Q. Do you know of local community groups, archives, libraries or university
departments that could help with the project?
How can you get in
To contact Voices from the Home Front Project or to get more information,
please contact Dave Welsh on , email:
write to Home Front Project, NPC , London, .
Please get in touch with information on the Home Front and send us your
letters, ideas and suggestions.
The TUC archive at London Metropolitan University has a huge collection of
Home Front material, some of which will be made available during this project.
Their website is: the
Please send your comments on their material to this website.
The Imperial War Museum is organizing a national touring exhibition of WW2 in
2005. Their website is: www.iwm.org.uk
The Oral History website is:
The National Sound Archive:
BBC Peoples War website is building up a new archive of WW2 stories. You can
add your recollections of the Home Front by signing in with the member name
natpencon and password-homefront04. Then contribute your Home Front story
and pictures. The BBC Peoples War website is:
Trade Unions and the War
Trade union (TUC
affiliates) membership grew by about 3 million between 1938 and 1946. It rose
from 4.5 million to 7.5 million and recognition agreements increased in
industries in which the unions had established only a partial presence before
government introduced a number of state controls and measures of social reform
with trade union support, including cheap school meals, day nurseries, better
pre-natal care and infant welfare, and the abolition of the means test.
through a tripartite Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), the government
prohibited strikes and lockouts whilst collective bargaining was supplemented
by a National Arbitration Tribunal. Wage controls were rejected but the pay
restraint of wartime collective effort was effective in preventing a repeat of
the pay and price crisis of World War One. Wage incomes rose by 18% between
1938 and 1947.
The pre- war
shop steward system that had emerged during the First World War was boosted by
labour shortages and the increased scope for workplace bargaining. Rank and
file discontent led to an increase in strikes each year until 1944, about half
of which were in support of wage demands and the rest in defence of existing
Women and the War
for women was introduced in 1941, either into the munitions industry, other
designated sectors or the Land Army. Women faced the double burden of
combining war production work with their role in the family. The government
was forced by the circumstances of war to respond to these issues but low
wages, discrimination and lack of opportunity continued in the workplace.
1,345 nurseries were in use by 1943 (there were only 14 in 1940) but this did
not satisfy demand for childcare facilities and many women turned to private
childcare. The message from the government was that such improvements were
strictly a war-time measure anyway.
Voices from the
I was terrified to begin with because I had never picked up a spanner before
and I thought I'd never learn it, what am I going to do... But I had to learn
it, it was war work... because the men and women were doing exactly the same
job we felt just as good as the boys. And as new men came into the plant often
we were teaching them the job.
We formed a song and dance act in the factory. I was on the piano. We started
off in the canteen, then we began performing in all the factory canteens
We have no
objection to working in the factories but we do object to the conditions we
have to work under. Women in industry today are called upon to bear burdens
that are beyond imagination.
Woman shop steward, 1941
wanted to get out of domestic service when I worked for a doctor and his
wife, I went and found out about evening classes, and she just stopped me from
having the evening off at that time. They were determined, and this applied to
most working class (not just coloured kids), you had to know your place.
Lilian Bader, 1940
They had an
Age Concern exhibition and I took along some pictures of West Indian ex-
servicewomen. That caused such a stir. People said, We never knew there were
black ex-servicewomen, and that we even came to England.
we heard that many South Wales collieries had ceased work and the others in
our valley were idle The argument that a strike would let our soldiers down
was countered by men who had brothers and sons in the forces who, so they
claimed, had urged them to fight and maintain their customs or privilegesThe
scales were loaded against continuing work, because all around us collieries
were idle and we felt their fight must be ours.
Bert Coombes, miner, 1944.