I was given the story of the Chilwell Canary Girls yesterday, which seems so fitting as we approach Remembrance Sunday, I will tell it at Radcliffe British Legion tomorrow night.
The Canary Girls filled shells in a Chilwell munitions factory which supplied over half the shells fired during World War I. Their nickname derived from the orange-yellow tinge their skin took on, because they were working with TNT. There were numerous unpleasant side-effects to using this substance, but the work continued. In July 1918 a terrible explosion killed 134, and injured 250 workers at the factory. It was one of the most devastating explosions this country has ever known. Yet the day after this hugely traumatising event, the workers returned to work to continue their war effort. There is a memorial to those killed at St Mary’s Church, Attenborough.
A telegram from Winston Churchill to the workers said:
“those who have perished have died at their stations on the field of duty and those who have lost their dear ones should fortify themselves with this thought, the courage and spirit shown by all concerned both men and women command our admiration, and the decision to which you have all come to carry on without a break is worthy of the spirit which animates our soldiers in the field.”
The above is quoted from Wikipedia, but there is plenty of other information online, as well as several books about them. Please have a look for yourself – and remember the inspirational Canary Girls of Chilwell.
Patchwork Lives, with this and so many other stories, is at Radcliffe British Legion tomorrow, November 9th, at 7pm. Remembrance Sunday is of course the following day.