Women at War

Article excerpt

Byline: By Ray Marshall

War is men's business, according to the Greek classic The Iliad.

But that sentiment has long been banished to history as women have been every bit as important to Britain's survival as their menfolk.

And today the Queen will unveil, near Downing Street, a 22ft bronze sculpture of women's uniforms to commemorate the seven million women who contributed to the war effort during the Second World War.

Thousands of North East women were among those who served in all branches of the armed forces, on barrage balloons, anti-aircraft guns, as drivers and even pilots, delivering Spitfires and Hurricanes to airfields.

But women also served in factories, such as Vickers, making guns, shells and bombs.

They drove buses and ambulances, worked as welders in the shipyards...nothing was beyond them.

Of course thousands also served in the Land Army, which was a vital part of the war effort.

One such local girl was Mary Lambert, who lives in Newcastle.

Mary, now 87, served in the WAAFs during the war and after working on barrage balloons was transferred into code and cipher work. Her war work took her to Italy, Malta and Scotland.

And today she welcomed the tribute to the women's war effort, albeit 60 years on.

"It's about time because last weekend when we had a service for VE Day in Newcastle I was there for all three days," says Mary.

"But on the Sunday when they had a memorial service and a march past, I was the only female who took part. And I don't know why.

"Women are always complaining, `Oh they've forgotten us', like the Land Army and all the rest of them, but they don't put themselves forward and that really annoys me. I think it's quite sad.

"I think they should make themselves known. I mean, I'm very proud of the fact that I spent six years in the WAAF doing my bit, and there's thousands of others, not just from the WAAF, ATS and Wrens. …

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