Women in the Second World War

Conscription for women was introduced in December 1941. All unmarried women aged between 19 and 30 (later extended to 43) were required to register for war work. Women could join the services: The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) or the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Although women could not serve in combat roles joining the services meant that women could learn a trade such as mechanics which would never have been open to them in peacetime. Women flew planes and staffed anti-aircraft guns amongst other tasks. Winston Churchill’s daughter Mary served in the 469 Heavy (Mixed) Anti-Aircraft Battery at Chase Side, Enfield.

The ban on married women working as teachers and nurses was lifted as they were essential to replace the number of men who had gone into the armed forces.

Women teachers at Bury  Road
Women teachers at Bury Road

They could also work in industry or farming. By December 1943 one in three factory workers were women making munitions, planes, ships and other items essential to the war effort.

In Enfield women took over many postal deliveries. They helped run the British Restaurants and information centres. Women worked in increasing numbers in all the local factories, such as the Royal Small Arms, Ripaults, Belling, The Metal Box and many others.

Women also volunteered as fire watchers and joined the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) which helped with billeting evacuated children, providing food and clothing for bombed out families and providing emergency rest centres.

The Women’s Land Army was set up in June 1939. At its peak in 1943 there were over 80,000 Land Girls. Land Girls were employed at Forty Hall, Oakwood Park  (see below)and other farms in the area.


Factories in the Great war

Many existing factories in the area went over to war production. The Genotin Blouse Factory in Enfield Town went over to the production of military shirts.  The Bycullah Athenaeum was taken over by Klingers

for the manufacture of military clothing and hospital garments. Many small munitions factories sprang up such as those in the old cartridge factory in Tile Kiln Lane. Weir Hall was requisitioned for use as a munitions factory.  Furniture factories were used to make airplane parts. Existing military factories such as the Royal Small Arms in Enfield Lock rapidly expanded, taking on more workers.

Eley’s Cartridge Factory

Eley’s in Angel Road Edmonton made munitions including hand grenades and anti-Zeppelin bullets

Ponders End Shell factory

Established in late 1914 it became one of the largest munitions works in the country. In 1918 during the German offensive the workers doubled their production working around the clock. The works closed in 1919.


Morsons chemical factory set up in Ponders End in 1901. The First World War saw major expansion making opiates, antiseptic field dressings for the troops and allegedly the first poison gas.

Morson's Interior
Morson’s Interior

United Flexible Tubing

This was set up in the former crape factory. The tubing was used by the Admiralty for charging torpedoes, re-fueling submarines and as part of early submarine detection equipment.

United Flexible Metal Tubing
United Flexible Metal Tubing


The war created a huge demand for parts for radios leading to an increase in production of valves at Ediswans. This in turn led to an increase in profits.


Most of Bellings production was given over to war work. They made heating and cooking equipment for submarines, large baking and steaming ovens for canteens, and electric glue-pots for industrial purposes.

Royal Small Arms

This began production in 1816. By the First World War it was producing the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifle which was the standard British Infantry weapon in both world wars. Over 2 million of these were made during the First World War. Jobs there were well paid and much sought after. By June 1917 7040 men, 1448 women and 1095 boys were employed at the factory. They were producing 10,500 rifles a week.