Remembering the role of women

History in Action will honour female contributions to the war effort.
History in Action will honour female contributions to the war effort.
Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

REVIEW: Crazy For You, at Mayflower Theatre in Southampton

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As part of the commemoration of the centenary of the start of the First World War, the History in Action Theatre Company presents performances of No Man’s Land: two plays about the role of women in the First World War – Victim Always Dies and The Canary Girls.

Understandably much of this year’s remembrance will focus on the part played by men in the First World War on the Western Front. But it is equally important to remember that women were part of the government’s war effort.

The munitions industry employed nearly a million of them; thousands of injured soldiers were nursed and cared for by women’s organisations while others drove ambulances.

On the home front, several million women were working as welders, train cleaners, policewomen, taxi drivers and bus drivers keeping Britain functioning during the war.

Victim Always Dies tells the story of two young women who volunteered as Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses, supplementing the national nurse shortage during the war. In typical black humour VADs were referred to as ‘very active dusters’ or ‘victim always dies’.

Set against the background of the Battle of the Somme, The Canary Girls tells the story of a young munitions worker. Almost all of the thousands of artillery shells and millions of bullets fired by the British armed forces were made by women.

Making munitions was dangerous work. Some workers died from the poisons and many were killed in explosions. The chemicals used were toxic and turned the hair green and the skin yellow, earning workers the nickname ‘canary girls’.

No Man’s Land plays at Westbury Manor Museum, Fareham on August 2 and 5 at 11am and 2pm, and on August 4 at 2.30pm. Tickets £5 from the Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham. Call 01329 223100 or visit hants.gov.uk/ashcroft.

The production will also be performed at Fareham Library on August 15 at 7.30pm. Tickets: £5 from the library. Call 0845 603 5631, visit hants.gov.uk/library/fareham-library or for further information call Paul King on 07731654728 or e-mail at historyinaction@outlook.com.