The contribution of women to the war effort was vital in keeping the everyday life of the nation running. This meant that while the men were out at war, the women kept the essential services and infrastructure needed by the general public fully functioning. Major changes in the role of women in British society had taken place during the beginning of the war, when women showed they were capable of doing the same jobs as men and taking on the same amount of responsibility. The participation of women in the running of everyday life of the nation showed obvious signs to all that women were needed to win the war. They were given responsibilities such as driving vehicles, acting as bus conductors and filling many posts in factories customarily held by men.
As a need for production increased, new schemes introduced to get women into Britain’s workforce resulted in The national service (No 2) Act. This called for all unmarried women aged between twenty and thirty to work in essential services. Women’s contributions to the essential industries during the war years showed that women were more than capable of doing the same jobs that men were previously doing in munitions factories and engineering. After this act 1/3 of the workforce were women in the essential industries, without whom production of bombs and planes would have been significantly reduced.
One of the biggest aims of getting women into the industries doing a ‘man’s job’ was to free up men to fight in the war and to increase production for the war economy. By August 1939, 30,000 women had volunteered their services to the Women’s Land Army, as a lack of food drove the government to try and increase the production of home-grown crops. The need to farm more land meant that the contribution of women to this sector of British economy made an important contribution to Britain’s war effort. By 1943 87,000 were playing an active part in the war effort on the home front.
Another area where women’s contribution to Britain’s war effort was very significant was the Auxiliary Services which compromised of three sectors. The Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS), Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) had some 50,000 women doing essential back up jobs; which were non- combatant. However there were still women dying in the military, 600 killed and 700 seriously wounded and over 200 women were taken prisoner.
These services also had the aim of releasing men from duties on the home front. Jobs like driving army trucks and performing administrative tasks were the responsibility of women in the ATS, and by the end of the war 80% of the army’s driving was done by women. Women in the military were also given the chance to use anti aircraft guns, although they weren’t allowed to fire them. Women in the WAAF contributed greatly to Britain’s war effort. Women who were pilots were given the important jobs of flying reconnaissance flights, and moving planes from one airfield to another.
Without these women more men would have been needed to carry out these jobs on the home front, thus slowing down the progress made abroad. Women’s contribution to intelligence and in particular code breaking contributed hugely to.The battle of Britain’s victory. Many women in this sector worked in the intergrated defense system, which played a huge part in debriefing pilots using radar technology so that the British pilots in the air would be ready for an attack. The WRNS contributed in much the same way by using radar to chart the ships and detecting minelayers in the sea.
The women’s voluntary sector also made a huge contribution to Britain’s war effort, by taking on the immense task of civil defence. By 1942 there were over 19,000 volunteers in the civil service, taking on the role of Air Raid Protection (ARP) wardens. These roles were crucial in the distressing time of the Blitz in late 1940. One sixth of ARP wardens were women at this time and were often the first on the scene of a bombed area, where they would then inform the emergency services and offer their help in any possible way. This was where ARP wardens played a major role in minimising the casualties and deaths of the Blitz.
The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) were another key area where women contributed considerably to the war effort. They dealt with the aftermath of the bombing, when the government didn’t have a welfare state to offer support to the homeless or the hungry. The WVS stepped in and offered homes, foods, clothes and even help in tracing missing relatives at the publics disposal, with a great deal of dedication and commitment. The women’s part in Civil defence and the WVS made a substantial contribution to Britain’s war effort as they did a job the local authorities were not equipped to deal with, and kept the spirit of the people alive through their active part in contributing to the war effort.
In conclusion women’s contribution to Britain’s war effort was hugely significant; winning the war depended on more than just British soldiers fighting the Nazis on the front line. The war economy, the output of home grown food and the back up services women provided to keep the infrastructure to keep Britain simply functioning; meant that the soldiers had a country worth returning to after fighting a long and tiresome war. Without the contribution of women in these services during the war a much less significant war effort would have been deployed by the state. There were 7 million women employed by the state, a third of these postions were very important and so would have had to be filled by men, without the efforts of women. This would have prevented over two million men from fighting in the war.