Welding their way for the war effort

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These women saved countless lives during the Second World War.

They weren’t soldiers or spies and they probably never held a weapon – but their work was vital to the war effort.

They worked as welders for Smith & Jewell Ltd, in Chichester, and the components they created kept the country’s RAF Hurricane fighters in the air during the Battle of Britain.

Without their skills and hard work, the outcome could have been very, very different.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939 just over five million women were in work.

By 1943 that number stood well in excess of seven million.

They served as factory workers, farm hands, special ops executives and in the Royal Air Force.

They may not have been allowed to fight on the front lines but their work was equally important as that of the men.

Once the war was over, Smith & Jewell Ltd continued to make its mark, not just on West Sussex but on the world.

Its structural department provided steel for the building of factories in Crawley’s industrial estate when the town was still being developed.

They provided 225 tonnes of steel for a galvanising plant in Nigeria, and built a high-level walkway between two buildings at the London Chest Hospital.

If you ever went to a Pontin’s holiday camp, you would have seen Smith & Jewell’s work.

They provided £90,000 worth of fabricated steelwork to build camps across the country – the equivalent of roughly £2 million today.

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