Group of women workers with a male "supervisor" from Rolls-Royce, Derby, c.1916-1917
Large format mounted print by W.W. Winter, Midland Road, Derby
Image © and courtesy of Chris Elmore
This image was sent to me by Chris Elmore, who wrote:
I believe the attached photograph was taken by W W Winter of Derby in 1916 or 17. It shows women who were recruited by the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby during the Great War. These ladies were perhaps the earliest to perform engineering tasks previously only performed by men. My grand mother Ada May Morris née Rudkin is in the photograph (seated second row from the front next to the last right) dressed in black out of respect for her husband Henry Augustus Morris D.C.M. who had died at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Rolls-Royce Armoured Car, unknown date and location
Much has been written about the women who worked in the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby during the Second World War, assembling Merlin engines which powered the celebrated Spitfires, but I've not been able to find a great deal about their role there during the Great War. When war broke out and orders for luxury cars all but disappeared, the factory initially took in some small orders for the manufacture of shell casings and ambulance wagons. The chassis of the Silver Ghost was also adapted for use in the construction of armoured cars, employed by T.E. Lawrence in his desert campaigns, but this was not enough to keep the factory running.
Handley Page Type O Bomber, nr Dead Sea, Palestine, c. 1918-1920
Image courtesy of Middle East Pictures
Although the British government had intended that the Derby factory manufacture existing aero engine designs under license, Henry Royce had other ideas. First tested in early 1915, the Eagle was designed from scratch by Royce and his engineering team, and subsequently became one of the mainstays of the British war effort, used to power a number of aircraft, including the Handley Page bomber. By the end of the war, the plant was making 50 engines a week.
If anyone can shed any further light on the women who worked at the Rolls-Royce Factory during the Great War, the kind of work they did, etc., Chris Elmore will be very grateful for the information.
Here's a quiz for all you budding and practised sleuths out there. What did it take New Zealand and Australia over a century to achieve, while Great Britain and Argentina almost managed it in half a century, and yet countries like India, Sri Lanka and Israel could do it in two or three decades? By the way, the United States has yet to do it, and Saudi Arabia can't do it.
Botticelli, Peter (1995) Rolls-Royce and the Rise of High-Technology Industry, in Creating Modern Capitalism: How Entrepreneurs, Companies, and Countries, Triumphed in Three Industrial Revolutions, Thomas K. McCraw (ed.), pp.96-129.
Clegg, George (1968-1970) George Clegg Reminisces, Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club.
King, Peter (2003) A Woman's Place in the Factory, Derby, BBC WW2 People's War.