Our first ‘munitionette’? UPDATED

By Judith Phillips

We’ve recently been sent some photographs of Elizabeth Anne Hogget – known as Lily in the family – from Barnard Castle who worked in a munitions factory during the First World War.  There were munitions factories in Newton Aycliffe and Darlington and it’s not clear yet where Lily worked – but the family thinks it was probably Darlington.  Does anyone recognise where the women are standing in this outdoor photograph?

In the more posed photograph Lily is sitting with a group of fellow-munition workers – ‘munitionettes’.  All the women are wearing overdresses and caps, necessary precautions as the materials and machinery they were using were messy and potentially dangerous.  The clothes are practical and look as though they are worn over ordinary blouses and skirts.  But it’s interesting to see that the women have added an individual touch to their uniform, even if only because they were being photographed.  You can see lace and other blouse collars outside their overdress collars and even the caps are worn in rather individual ways. 

The ‘shells crisis’ of 1915 led to an increase in the manufacture of shells under Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions.  Many women took work in the factories because they offered higher wages than other factory work or domestic service – traditionally seen as employment for working-class women.  Lily Hoggett is the first ‘munitionette’ we have been given any real information about.  We know that a sister of George, Tom, Walter and Stanley Croft  ‘worked in munitions’ as she is mentioned in the Teesdale Mercury report of Mrs. Croft receiving the medals awarded to George Croft, killed in 1917. (You can see details of the Croft brothers’ service on the Roll of Honour on www.thebowesmuseumww1.org.uk).  There will have been other women from Teesdale involved in munitions manufacturing – perhaps you know of one?  We’d love to hear about them.

Lily married William Tallentire in 1918, before the end of the war.  I found that out by checking on Ancestry but there’s plenty more research to be done about Lily and her family.  Her descendants who have kindly sent us copies of their family photographs have promised to pass on any family history information and we can use Ancestry to check William’s military service as well as census records and civil registration records (births, marriages and deaths).  

That’s what makes this project so fascinating – piecing together the stories of the men and women from Teesdale whose lives were affected by the war on the front line and at home.  If you have any information or artefacts about Teesdale people and the First World War, we’d love to hear from you.  You can email: libraryandarchives@thebowesmuseum.org.uk or telephone: 01833 690606 ext. 208 (answerphone).

UPDATE: Following on from this article’s inclusion in an earlier newsletter, we’ve been contacted by a few people who say the munitions workers must have been at Darlington as the Aycliffe works weren’t operational until the Second World War.  We’re always grateful to members of the public who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise.  Sometimes we publicise a name or ‘fact’ in the hope that someone out there has more information or can put us right.  So, please, keep on looking at entries on the website and stories in the newsletter, and help us out when we get it a bit wrong or ask a question.