The Service Women of WWII – by Hannah Mather, Customer Service Assistant and Volunteer

During the warmer months, the spotlight shone on the women working in agriculture, in place of the men that were now serving in the military. The Women’s Land Army was featured on the covers of Woman magazine with issues like the ones below, from May and August, which show full page illustrations of women, proudly wearing their ‘Land Girl’ uniforms, identifiable by their striking green jumpers over white shirts and golden badges.

Cover page of Woman magazine, 15 May 1943. TWCMS: 2018.1111


Cover page of Woman Magazine, 28 August 1943. TWCMS: 2018.1119


The badges upon closer inspection were enamelled brass with imagery of freshly harvested, golden corn in the centre of a green background. It was surrounded by a circular band that has Women’s Land Army engraved into it and topped with a golden crown; much like the one pictured below, from Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ collection.

Women’s Land Army Badge. TWCMS: 2009.3738


The Women’s Land Army was a British Civilian organisation that was set up originally during WWI.  It was once again called upon and re-founded just before the outbreak of WWII so that the men, who had been working the land, could fight in the military. This was in fact the case with many crucial services that had once been male dominated; during WWI we see the emergence of many women’s service groups that were once again called upon during the outbreak of the Second World War. Other civilian organisations which were important during the war included the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) who became responsible for the assembly of weapons, as well as the building of aircraft and other vessels, such as ships over time as their roles became more varied.

The National Fire Service (NFS) was another, well known civilian organisation that proved to be crucial during WWII. The NFS had both male and female members with women often having administrative duties such as staffing communication centres. Their uniforms were dark blue with the NFS logo, as shown below on this cover illustration of Woman magazine from 17 April 1943. This service would often respond to the aftermath of Blitz attacks and was a dangerous job.

Cover page image of Woman Magazine, 17 April 1943, showing a woman from the National Fire Service on duty, taking a call. TWCMS: 2018.1108


Women’s service groups were highlighted quite often in Woman, with regular articles from the Women’s War Service Bureau dealing with a variety of wartime topics. There was an interesting article about service women’s uniforms in an issue of the magazine dated 28 August 1943; this extract can be seen below.

Woman Magazine, 28 August 1943 showing Uniforms of Women in Service. TWCMS: 2018.1119


Images included in this article are of uniforms that were worn by Service Women in Britain during WWII. There are also some which were not British and the article discusses similarities and differences between the various group’s uniforms.

It cannot be doubted that the women’s contribution to the war effort during the First and Second World Wars was great. Many women took on roles that had previously been considered to be masculine jobs and played their part in keeping things going in a time of need. When the men were called away for military service, the women were called upon to fill their jobs and many took up work in factories, as well as on the land and in other services. Women began to feel, as a result of this, that they were capable of much more and it began to change people’s views on what women could do.


TWAM Highlights 2018

As 2018 draws to a close we’ve taken a look back at our highlights in what has been an unforgettable year for our museums, galleries and archives.

Which Way North

Heaven by Damien Hirst

Heaven, Damien Hirst, 2008-2009. Photo by Colin Davison

The Great North Museum: Hancock hosted Which Way North as part of the Great Exhibition of the North, featuring over 250 items including Damien Hirst’s Heaven, John Lennon’s Piano, Doctor Who’s Sonic Screwdriver, Whistlejacket, Helen Sharman’s space suit and many more.


The return of Rocket


Discovery Museum welcomed Robert Stephenson’s historic locomotive Rocket back home. During its 80 day run over 176,000 people came to see the famous feat of engineering, back in Newcastle where it was first created.


The Late Shows

The Late Shows

One of the cultural highlights of the year in NewcastleGateshead, The Late Shows is the North East’s biggest annual late-night culture crawl. This year we had 67 venues hosting events, and over the two- day period there were over 30,000 visits across the venues. The Late Shows will be back again next year Friday 17-Saturday 18 May. Get it in your diary!


A rejuvenated Hatton Gallery

Sean Scully with his work. Photo by Colin Davison

This was Hatton Gallery’s first year since re-opening in October 2017 after a £3.8 million refurbishment. The Hatton achieved over 50,000 visits in its first year and highlights included the Sean Scully: The Seventies exhibition, which brought the Newcastle University graduate back to his roots. Recently Hatton Gallery won Gallery of the Year at this year’s Northern Soul Awards, topping off an excellent 2018 for the art gallery.


Segedunum’s Saving Face

Segedunum Roman Fort displayed some impressive Roman helmet cheek-pieces from a private collection in its Saving Face exhibition and over 12,500 people flocked to see the annual fireworks display at the fort this November.


Arbeia redevelopment

Photo by Colin Davison

Arbeia, South Shields Roman Fort completed the first phase of its redevelopment supported by the DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund and welcomed visitors to a programme of re-enactments and Roman themed events throughout the season


King Coal

High Speed Drifters by Bob Olley © Robert Olley Artwork

South Shields Museum & Art Gallery had a tremendous response to its exhibition King Coal: the life & legacy of South Tyneside’s coal mining communities exhibition.  The exhibition featured over 20 paintings by renowned North East artist Bob Olley, who earlier this year announced he would be donating some of his paintings to South Shields Museum & Art Gallery’s collection for future generations to enjoy.


Stephenson Railway Museum’s special locomotive

It was exciting to see the return of Rocket to Tyneside this summer; however, this year Stephenson Railway Museum celebrated the news that its star exhibit, Killingworth Billy, built by George Stephenson, is even older than Rocket! In fact, it was discovered that it was the third oldest surviving locomotive in the world.


Grayson Perry exhibition

Grayson Perry © Katie Hyams and Living Architecture

The Grayson Perry exhibition at Shipley Art Gallery was very popular this year. The exhibition featured tapestries telling the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex ‘everywoman’, who was inspired by the people Perry grew up among.


An ‘Enchanted’ Summer at the Laing

In the end we all succumb to the pull of the molten core, Glenn Brown 2016

The Laing Art Gallery had a hugely successful summer with the Enchanted Garden and Glenn Brown exhibitions increasing footfall by over 50% in July and August and achieving critical acclaim in the national media.


Blue Peter Time Capsule

Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey Russell. Photo by Colin Davison

Tyne & Wear Archives invited BBC’s Blue Peter to its Search room and displayed their Millennium Time Capsule which was accidentally dug up by construction workers 33 years earlier than planned. The capsule provided a snapshot of pre-2000s Britain including British coins, Teletubby dolls, a photograph of Diana, Princess of Wales, letters from viewers about life at the time, an insulin pen and asthma inhaler.


“At your service ma’am,” local brands which saw us through the war – by Hannah Mather, Customer Service Assistant and Volunteer

This blog examines brands of food, cosmetics and cleaning products which were locally made and advertised throughout WWII.

Thomas Hedley & Company Ltd was a major British Company, based in Newcastle, that manufactured soaps. Two of its most well-known products are Fairy and Oxydol Soap, which were key household products during WWII. During wartime, when many things were rationed, advertisements claimed that these products were multipurpose and longer lasting than other products. It was even claimed that Oxydol had the ability to do almost twice the washing per coupon, a bold claim, which was popular with consumers.

Advertisements for food, cosmetics and cleaning products were particularly popular in wartime, in women’s magazines like Woman. Often taking up a full page, the more they could do, the better! The advert below claimed Oxydol Soap could save both ‘soap coupons and clothes coupons’ with impressive results that would leave clothes looking ‘bright as new.’

Advert from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 17 April 1943, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.


Another trusted household name, produced by Thomas Hedley & Company Ltd, was Fairy Soap. ‘The famous green household soap’ boasted about its ability to make floors and paintwork brighter. Despite being tough on stains, this product also claimed to be gentle on skin, being ‘kind as can be to your hands.’ Adverts for Fairy Soap took on the military theme during the war often using slogans such as ‘I’m on home service’ and ‘at your service Ma’am’ two examples of which are below.

Advert from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 25 March 1944, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.


Advert from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 15 Jan 1944, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.


‘What about my looks?’

Whilst Thomas Hedley & Company Ltd took care of your home, there was a rise in popularity for cosmetic and health products that were affordable during wartime. Another big brand, produced right on our doorsteps in Newcastle upon Tyne, was Andrews Liver Salt. This product was thought to create ‘inner cleanliness’ as it ‘sweeps away, trouble-making poisons’ from the body. By achieving this ‘inner cleanliness’ adverts, like the one below, claimed that people would also notice improvements to their skin as a result of using the Liver Salts for ‘inner cleanliness comes first.’

Advert for Andrews Liver Salt from the back of Woman Magazine, week ending 10 April 1943. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.
















Shop Window Display of Andrews Liver Salt. Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives.


Andrews was manufactured and sold near and far by Scott & Turner Ltd. This picture, which can be dated to around 1934 (or earlier), shows a window display of Andrews Liver Salt. It was by the time of WWII already a world known brand.

Photograph of a woman working in a factory, making boxes for Andrews Liver Salt. Courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives.

As a young woman born in Newcastle, I can’t help but feel a great sense of pride in what was once very local industry, one that produced brands which are still going strong. Though time has passed, we can be assured that these products have helped put Newcastle on the map as the production place for many great products that saw us not only through the war, but are still used to this very day.

My Primary School is at the Museum – By Virginia Wilkinson, Learning Officer for South Tyneside Museums 

I’m the Learning Officer for museums in South Tyneside working with Arbeia, South Shields’ Roman Fort and South Shields Museum & Art Gallery. Myself and the team work with many different schools and community groups using the museum collections, and engage with people from all over our local community.

It’s an aspect of museum life that not everyone is aware of.

I wanted to share the legacy of a trailblazing project we were involved in a few years ago with Kings College London, which has developed into a resource website for other educators.

My primary school is at the museum is an action project which was developed by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London against a backdrop of threatened museum services, a shortage of school places, and ever growing evidence to support the range of benefits of learning in cultural environments and through collections.

It involved placing three primary schools from around the UK in a museum setting for between two and five weeks in 2016.

At Arbeia we were delighted to be involved in the first pilot with the ever enthusiastic Hadrian Primary School across the road from the museum, with whom we have a fantastic relationship.

Hadrian Primary School exploring the Amazing Finds Gallery

We were very excited, but not really knowing of what exciting developments would open up before us as we tested the benefits of co-locating their year 5 (ages 9 – 10 years) primary school class for a term within our museum.

In short – the children used the museum as their classroom.

Hadrian Primary School, The Commanding Officer’s House

It is fantastic to see the widening interest in projects such as these as is evidenced in the growing participation in the website:

The aim of the blog is to become a one-stop shop for resources relating to the project, and anyone looking for more information on a museum residency.

Please take a look!

There is a YouTube video that gives an idea of what we did:

‘Make Do and Mend’: Woman magazine’s guide to wartime fashion – by Hannah Mather, Customer Service Assistant and Volunteer

During wartime, it was expected of everyone to put all their efforts toward winning the war. This often meant working harder and making extra effort. The Make Do and Mend campaign encouraged people to make new by using material from old clothing. Make-do and Mend classes were also set up. These classes taught people how to give their old clothing a new lease of life and make their rations go further. Rations were introduced due to a shortage in supplies. Each person would be provided with a rations book which contained coupons used to purchase clothing and food.

Winifred Cairns’ clothing ration book from 1942-1943 [TWCMS: 2008.1248]

Fashion magazines such as Woman often had tips and patterns inside them for how women could make-do with clothes which they already had by customising them, adding patterns, new buttons, collars and pockets, as well as mending damaged clothing. People often added extra lining in scrap material for easier repairs. Simple alterations could make an old dress look new. An issue of Woman magazine from 15 May 1943 had an article written for it about ‘clever dress tactics’, whilst another issue from 10 April 1943 discussed ways to “bring diversion to your wardrobe” by adding new fronts to dresses. These fronts could be made from almost any piece of scrap fabric which you may have around the house including, lace doilies which could be used to make a ‘frilly jabot.’

A ‘frilly jabot’ from Woman’s magazine 10 April 1943: pg.11

Children’s clothing often saw a lot of wear and tear; the solution to this during a time of ‘make do and mend’ was to reinforce the clothing so that it may last longer. Magazines would often include tips on how this could be done using simple techniques as shown below in the magazine Woman from April 1943.

10 April 1943 issue of Woman magazine: Tips on Children’s Clothing.


Despite rations and other wartime restrictions, life appeared to remain relatively normal for some. Parties would still take place and people were encouraged to add frills and scrap material to their dresses to create the perfect party dress. They were encouraged to accessorise with flower bracelets which could be recycled from flowers taken from old hats as can be seen below.

2 October 1943 issue of Woman magazine: Tips on how to dress for a party.

To conclude, wartime brought with it fewer resources and a change in attitude towards consumerism which encouraged people to be more imaginative with what they had rather than to buy new. It was an age of make-do and mend.