Women performed valuable tasks during the Great War

A post-girl sorting the mail in Portsmouth post office circa 1916
A post-girl sorting the mail in Portsmouth post office circa 1916
Jo and Rhys Williams competing in a nighttime navigational competition in East Hampshire

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I wonder how many people realise that, in just over two years’ time, it will be a century since the First World War began.

On August 4, 1914 at 11pm a state of war existed between Germany and Great Britain.

It later became known as the Great War and ended up with all the European countries taking part. It didn’t stop further conflict between the nations though.

A reader from Westbourne, Len Butt, has handed me a copy of a book edited by the editor of the Portsmouth Evening News, William G Gates. It was published by the Evening News and Hampshire Telegraph Company.

It is a complete record of all who served and died as soldiers or sailors from the Portsmouth area, It also tells of those who served outside the armed forces, such as the many women from the area who took up tram driving and conducting. Women also took up positions in the Post Office.

It records that the Postmasters (a Mr Arman until 1918 and then his successor, Mr F Spencer) were well satisfied with the work done by the women. It may sound a little condescending these days, but in a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote it was a compliment.

They took up these jobs while the menfolk of the area went off to war.

I know the anniversary is a while away yet, but if you had relatives, especially grandmothers and aunts, who performed valuable tasks in the war, please let me know. Thank you.