At Crofton Beam Engines: Wiltshire & World War One...home life & women's role

Written by Tony Millett on .

The Hospital Barge BitternThe Hospital Barge BitternA free talk at Crofton Beam Engines, alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal, will examine how women changed their behaviour to fill the void left when their menfolk had to leave home to join frontline forces during the First World War.

The talk, by Emma Shelley, will focus on some of the roles played by women, and how they began to flex their muscles in the theatre of war. What new skills did they have to learn, what pressures did they face, and what lessons did they take from it? Women paid a price for the war raging in Europe – what legacy did that leave?

The Role of Women in the First World War is on Thursday, May 25 at 2pm. Places are limited - so, although the event is free, please call 01672 870300 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve a ticket. An afternoon tea of sandwiches, cakes and tea or coffee, for £6.95, will be available, but should also be booked in advance.

Before and after the talk, there will be the chance to see the exhibition about how ordinary people maintained Wiltshire’s morale during WWI, which is running at Crofton from May 18 to June 25.

Keeping the Home Fires Burning is the fourth in a series of exhibitions produced by the Wiltshire at War: Community Stories team. One of the many fascinating stories it tells relates directly to both women’s role during WWI and to the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The narrowboat Bittern (pictured right) was bought by a Mrs Fletcher for the Red Cross to use as a hospital boat and operated on the canal in the Bradford on Avon area from 1917-18. Mrs Fletcher used to be at the helm while the barge was pulled by a horse.

The research for the Wiltshire at War: Community Stories exhibitions has been carried out by local museums and heritage groups from across Wiltshire as part of a five-year Heritage Lottery Fund supported project.

All four exhibitions  – Keeping the Home Fires Burning, Wiltshire Does its Bit, The Call To Arms and A Child’s War – are available free of charge to community groups. To book, or for more details, call Heather Perry at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre on 01249 705500.