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Lilian Rolfe. Violette Szabo. Denise Bloch. What links these women?. Cecily Lefort. They were all members of S.O.E They all gave their lives for victory. C ecily Lefort. Landed June 43 as a member of the Jockey resau . Captured Sep 43. Tortured Died Ravensbruck Feb 45.

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Lilian Rolfe


Denise Bloch

What links these women?

Cecily Lefort


They were all members of S.O.E

They all gave their lives for victory


Cecily Lefort

Landed June 43 as a member of the Jockey resau.

Captured Sep 43.


Died Ravensbruck

Feb 45.

Mentioned in Despatches; Croix de Guerre avec Etoile de Vermeil


Denise Bloch

Landed Mar 44 as member of Clergyman resau.

Captured June 44.


Killed Ravensbruk Jan-Feb 45.

King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct; Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur; Medaille de la Resistance Francaise (Rosette)


Lilian Rolfe

Landed Apr 44 as a member of the Historian resau.

Captured Jul 44.


Killed Ravensbruck Jan-Feb 45.

Mentioned in Despatches; Croix de Guerre avec Palme



Dropped June 1944, on her second mission, as a member of Salesman resau. Captured within a few days.


Killed Ravensbruk Jan-Feb 45

George Cross;

Croix de Guerre avec Palme


These women were the exception:

The bravest of the brave

NoorInyat Khan


Odette Hallowes


Nancy Wake



Their heroism and sacrifice was not known about at the time.

They were members of ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’


What about the women who were not the exception, but played a key role none the less in winning the war?


By the end of this lesson you will be able to...

  • Explain the roles avaliable to women during WW2.
  • Analyse the importance of women to the war effort.

Women in World War 2

As in World War 1, the British Government recognised the importance that women could play in helping win the war.

In the First World War, many of the jobs taken by women were office jobs and administrative duties. During the World War 2 this changed.

Task: Use the four information sheets to find out what the role of women was on the ‘Home Front’.


Women – World War 2

Auxiliary Territorial Service

In the Factory

What types of jobs were women given in the Auxiliary Services? How did they change later on?

Why did the government want women to join up? What did they introduce in 1941 to help this?

How did the roles women were given change as the war went on?

What types of jobs did women did women do in the factories?

How many were employed in the war effort?

What new problems did women face due to working in these new conditions?

Women’s Voluntary Service

Women’s Land Army

Why was the Women’s land army set up?

Describe the membership number of the WLA – Why did membership peak at 80,000?

What types of jobs did women do in the WLA?

What type of women joined the WVS?

What were the duties of women who joined the WVS?

Any additional information:


Auxiliary Territorial Service

Auxiliary means to provide additional help or support.

By December 1939, 43,000 women had volunteered for active duty in the Women's Auxiliary Services of the Army, Navy and Air Force. They were not allowed to fight but did work that supported the efforts of the soldiers, sailors and airmen. At first this included typing, cooking, cleaning, driving and operating telephone switchboards but they were soon given more military work to do, such as identifying enemy aircraft, plotting air and shipping movements on battle maps, and acting as motorcycle messengers.

The government wanted women to join up so they could take the places of men who could then be sent off to fight. As a result, in 1941 they introduced conscription for all single women aged between 20 and 30. Women had to choose whether they wanted to join the armed forces or work in vital industries. Early in 1942, women aged 19 were also called up. By January 1942, over 213,000 were serving in the Auxiliary Services. The number of women entering the services fell slightly in 1943 as more people were needed to work in aircraft production but by June 1944 over 450,000 women were serving in the armed forces (the equivalent number of men was 4 ½ million).

As the war went on, women were given more dangerous work to do, such as crewing anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. Women also undertook top-secret work using radar or code-breaking enemy messages. Indeed, most of the 5,000 people working at Bletchley Park using early computers and captured enemy encoding machines to read German and Japanese messages were women.


In the Factory

Although women had worked in factories before, there was a big increase after war broke out in 1939. As men were called-up to join the Armed Forces more and more women were needed to replace them.

Women did all kinds of work. Over half the workforce in the chemical and explosive industry was made up of women; 1 ½ million worked in the engineering and metal industries. Women made shells and bombs, electrical cable and wire, uniforms, clothing, barrage balloons, tents, parachutes and flying suits. Many became skilled welders. Others played a crucial role in aircraft production. Altogether, about 7 million women were employed in the war effort.

Many women had never worked before and had to learn to cope with very long working hours and night shifts. Some had to make long journeys to and from work. Others had to work part-time so they could look after their children. The work could also be dangerous. As well as the risk of enemy bombing raids upon factories, accidents were common, especially in the explosive industry.

Another problem women had to face was the attitude of other workers and the employers. Many men did not like working with women and most women were paid less than men - often only half - for doing the same work.


Women’s Voluntary Service

The Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) began in June 1938 to prepare women for civil defence work. By September 1939, the WVS had 336,000 members, increasing to 1 million members during the war.

The women who joined the WVS were those with domestic responsibilities, such as looking after children or relatives, who could not join the armed forces or the Land Army, or work in a factory. Only the organisers received any payment, everybody else gave their services free. The women of the WVS even had to buy their own uniform - a grey-green tweed suit, red jumper and felt hat.

One of the main tasks of the WVS was to recruit women for Air Raid Precautions services (ARP). They also ran field kitchens and rest centres for people made homeless by bombing; provided canteens at railway stations for soldiers and sailors; escorted children being evacuated; helping people salvage their personal belongings from bombed-out houses; and doing domestic work in hospitals and clinics. The WVS was also the official 'sock darner' for the Army - darning 38,000 pairs a week for British and American soldiers!


Women’s Land Army

As the prospect of war became increasingly likely, the government wanted to increase the amount of food grown within Britain. This would mean that less food would have to be imported freeing up more ships for troop movements and reducing the risk of convoys being attacked. In order to grow more food, more help was needed on the farms and so the government started the Women's Land Army.

The Women's Land Army was set up in June 1939 and by September it had over 1,000 members. By 1941, its numbers had risen to 20,000 and, at its peak in 1943, over 80,000 women classed themselves as 'Land Girls'. Numbers did not rise after that, as women were needed to make aircraft and were encouraged to take up factory work instead.Women joined the Land Army from all backgrounds, a third coming from London and other large cities. Farm work was hard, and the women did all sorts of jobs including hoeing, ploughing, hedging, turning hay, lifting potatoes, threshing, lambing and looking after poultry. A thousand women were employed as rat catchers. Six thousand women worked in the Timber Corps, felling trees and running sawmills. About a quarter were employed in milking and general farm work.