Call to get Sheffield Woman of Steel the medal she missed out on

Friends of a 93-year-old Sheffield Woman of Steel who missed out on a medal think she should still get one - something that has been ruled out by the council so far.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 10:30 am

Dozens of people replied to a Facebook post from Sam Wragg on the Chapeltown, High Green, Ecclesfield and Grenoside Forum group.

Many said they were happy to raise the money to get a medal struck for Doreen Wass.

Doreen and Sam were chatting in the community room of their elderly people’s flats complex in High Green when she recalled her wartime working life.

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Doreen Wass missed out on her Women of Steel medal because she didn't realise she had to apply for it. Picture Scott Merrylees

He wrote: “I’ve just had an enthralling evening listening to Doreen and her experiences during the Second World War.

“She worked on a capstan lathe making nuts bolts and large rivets for the Navy ships. She then moved on to Swann-Morton, making scalpel blades for the War Department.

“Doreen never received her Woman of Steel medal.

“Wouldn't it be good through this forum if we could get Doreen a well-deserved medal?”

17 May 2016.....Women of Steel medals being made at Sheffield Assay office in Hillsborough.Picture shows front and back of medal. Picture Scott Merrylees

We approached the council with the idea but the response was negative.

Coun Julie Grocutt, deputy leader at Sheffield City Council, said: “All commemorative Women of Steel medallions were given out in 2016 following a six-month application process.

“We issued nearly 800 medallions to the Women of Steel and the families of those who were no longer with us.

“The main focus of the project was, of course, the creation of the Memorial to the Women of Steel – a bronze statue now standing in Barker’s Pool – and the issuing of the medallions was only made possible through local people’s generous giving, which exceeded the target for the statue.

“I hope that Ms Wass has been able to see the statue and appreciate the way that the Women of Steel, such as herself, have been taken into the hearts of Sheffielders.

“All the application forms for the medallions are now archived and publicly accessible at the Sheffield Local Studies Archive so that the names and as much information as possible about the women are on record for future generations to study.

“We have added to these any other Women of Steel that we have been made aware of since the medallions were issued.

“It would be wonderful to add Ms Wass’s details to this archive and we will do this if she would like, which would include details of her work, personal stories she has and media coverage of her experiences.”

Sam responded: “Maybe it would be a good idea for the council to revisit the Women of Steel and do a sweeping-up exercise in those that didn't receive a medal.

“In the response I have received I'm sure the citizens of Sheffield would welcome such an exercise and would be good PR for the council.”

Doreen said she would love to have a medal and said she simply missed the application publicity as she was living in Elsecar at the time.

She is just as upset that she couldn't get a Bevin Boys medal for her late husband, Wilfred, as she is about missing out herself.

Doreen recalled: “I was only 12 when the war started. We moved in the beginning of October 1939 to Deerlands Avenue, Parson Cross. They had just built Southey School so it wasn’t open.

“I ended up having a year off school as I ended up in Winter Street with TB. I was in bed.”

Doreen remembers her father fetching her back from the infectious diseases hospital on Winter Street after a barrage balloon came down behind the hospital.

She said she left school at 14 and her health limited the jobs she could do.

She remembers operating a big machine at Hillsborough firm Swann-Morton, making razor blades, and said: “I loved that from start to finish.”

Unfortunately she lost her job there when she was moved to working on scalpels and a supervisor didn’t like the way that she had been shown to clean them.

Next she moved to the Globe Steelworks on Bowling Green Lane, Kelham Island. “That was all rivets, nuts and bolts,” she said.

She left that job and moved across the road to Ibbotson and Smith’s Britannia Flour Mills on Alma Street, staying there until she married in 1947.

She and husband Wilfred, who died 14 years ago, had six children.

Doreen has 12 grandchildren plus many great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.

Wilfred, from Ecclesfield, met Doreen, whose maiden name was Joynes, when he was 12 years old.

He used to visit their neighbours to collect vegetable peelings to feed their chickens. They started going out when Doreen was 17.

She said that Wilfred was initially exempted from war service as he worked in a steelworks on Spring Street but was eventually conscripted as a Bevin Boy, working down a coal pit.

She said: “He didn’t get a Bevin Boy medal just like I didn’t get one of steel.”

Doreen said she rang to apply for the Bevin Boy medal but was turned down and told not to call again.

She has been amazed by the interest in her story, saying: “I’m not used to being famous - I’m used to being the Cinderella.”