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Diary Reveals Wartime Croydon
The diary of two women who went to work in a Croydon factory during the Second World War is the subject of a new book published this month.
Working for Victory vividly brings wartime Croydon to life and explores the important role that women played during the war years.
The book is an edited version of a diary written by Elsie Whiteman and Kathleen Church-Bliss, who give a frank and funny account of life at Morrisons in Croydon.
The two middle class women from Milford in Surrey gave up their genteel restaurant to volunteer for war work.
After a training course in engineering, they were directed by the Ministry of Labour to the aircraft components factory in Croydon.
Joining a new world of industrial work, the two middle aged women kept a joint diary between 1942 and 1944 logs their colourful comparisons of factory life to the comfortable world they left behind in the home counties.
In her introduction to the book, editor Sue Bruley says : "The joint diary of Elsie Whiteman and Kathleen Church-Bliss, from February 1942 to November 1944, is undoubtedly one of the best examples of the war diary genre."
"It is written by two middle aged women of considerable means who exchanged a comfortable and pleasant life in the Surrey countryside for the grime and exhaustion of factory labour in Croydon."
"Their diary, recounting first life at the government training centre and then at Morrisons, bursts with wit and humour and the minutiae of wartime tragedies and hardships."
The book claims to provide a unique insight into the life in a wartime factory, a subject avoided despite the fact that it was the destiny of more than one and a half million British women.
It also sheds light on wartime society, with two middle class women suddenly having to adapt to a very different way of life.
The diary is a vital source of information about what actually happened on the factory floor and details the general disorganisation and bad management of this essential part of the war effort.
Kathleen and Elsie were shocked by the poor conditions at Morrisons, particularly for the women workers and, through the various works committees established, they worked to bring about welfare reforms inside the factory.
Working for Victory, published by Sutton Publishing, is available from bookshops priced at £20.