Heroines steel themselves for stardom at last

Author Neil Anderson
Author Neil Anderson
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FOR one woman what will always stick in mind was how, even when the air raid sirens were wailing, she and her fellow female workers would remain at their stations.

“We didn’t run for cover until the bombs started falling,” she says.

Dorothy Slingsby

Dorothy Slingsby

Another recalls having her face gashed while on the production line. The injury was so bad the doctor’s assistant fainted - but she got stitched up and went straight back to post.

These are Sheffield’s women of steel - the home-land heroes who made the weapons which won World War Two - and now a documentary made more than 25 years ago but never shown in public is set to make big screen stars of them.

The film is being released for the first time after it was discovered by city author Neil Anderson while he researched a book on the Sheffield Blitz.

And he wants to trace the seven featured women - or their families - to have them as guests of honour at a premier next month.

“These women represent a whole generation of girls who were nothing less than heroes,” says the 44-year-old professional Sheffielder.

“The film is an amazing collection of interviews and archive footage which offers a fascinating insight into the sacrifices made but what also comes across is these girls’ unbelievable spirit and their determinedness to get the job done. Frankly, it’s incredible its never been made available for general release.”

Incredible, indeed, but there are reasons for the quarter of a century delay.

The film, called simply Women Of Steel, was produced by the Sheffield Film Co-op in 1984 with the aim of marking 40 years since the end of the conflict. But a lack of funding meant only a few copies were ever produced.

“It was made by documentary maker Christine Bellamy” says Neil. “She lent me her copy and as I was watching it I thought this is a story that has to be told.”

He acquired the rights, added some bonus footage and has now made it available through The Star shop.

And one person who has already snapped it up is Dorothy Slingsby, a 90-year-old who worked as a crane driver at English Steel during the war.

“It’s brought back a lot of memories,” she says. “It is an important part of Sheffield’s history and it deserves to be remembered.”

If you are one of the seven women of steel featured in the documentary call Neil Anderson on 0845 603 6421.

The Women Featured

Mona Marshall from Firth Brown’s

Betty Serjeant from Firth Vickers

Ethel Wright from English Steel

Betty Wallace from English Steel

Emily Billard from English Steel

Nora Knowles from Firth Brown’s

Margaret White from Firth Brown’s