Many engineers were not allowed to sign up to the forces as they were deemed indispensable and instead they supported the war from home. The increased need for munitions and related items meant a new workforce was needed, both to meet demand and because many men had gone to war; women formed the core of this.

Home Forces

Harry Stephenson Ellis served with No. 3 Signals Section of the Durham Royal Engineers Volunteer Home Force. However, he had originally requested foreign service. Ellis wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Walsh to request leave from his position as Borough Electrical Engineer in South Shields to join the Royal Engineers. The request was refused as Ellis’s work as a skilled electrical engineer at home was recognised as being of more use to the war effort than joining the ranks of the Royal Engineers:

“…I have come to the conclusion that you really have absolutely no business or right to leave the important post which you are now holding".

To dissuade him from joining the Royal Engineers in France, Walsh then suggested he enrol in the Volunteer Corps. Ellis did not give up easily and applied in 1916 for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. Although not yet on active service, Major General Shaw (Home Forces) described in May 1916 how Ellis’s method of painting street lamps was favourably received by the Field Marshall; he sent drawings on how to minimise white light on the ground produced by arc lamps. By April 1917 Ellis had finally offered his services as a National Service Volunteer:

“Your offer has been recorded, but in view of the nature of your occupation it can only be considered after dealing with the offers of men engaged in work of less essential importance.”

Ellis did not give up; such was his patriotism and desire to enlist, even though he now accepted this would be on the home front and November 1917 Ellis had succeeded to join the war effort. He was accepted as a Lieutenant in the Volunteer Force, County of Durham Volunteer Engineers, exactly two years after his initial request. He was the commanding officer for No.3 Signals Section of the Durham Royal Engineers Volunteer Corps. In May 1919, he received orders for the disbandment of the Volunteer Force and the re-opening of the Territorial Force. He was in command of checking all remaining stores and the accommodation at the Drill Hall.

“I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that in recognition of your services as an officer of the Volunteer Force in the Durham Royal Engineers (V.) you have been granted the Honorary Rank of Lieutenant…I am to take this opportunity of conveying the thanks of the Army council for your services to the Country during the Great War, and for the excellent work you have done.”

Ellis left Durham in 1919 to take up employment as Borough Electrical Engineer in Southampton. His story highlights how engineers who remained on the home front, continuing their work, helped the war effort. Despite pressure to fight many had to remain in post at home as their occupation was so skilled it could not be replicated by another. It was also important that their expertise was used to remain ahead of the enemy and not to give them the advantage in warfare.

NAEST 155 03 114 Photograph of Lt Ellis
Photograph of Ellis in the Royal Engineer Signals. Read his biography in Resources.

NAEST 155 03 06 Volunteer Force certificate
Printed certificate for appointment to Volunteer Force.


War brought with it a huge increase in demand for munitions, at the same time the workforce was reduced by men signing up. By 1918, almost a million women were employed in munitions and engineering works, with 80% of shells being made by women by 1917: in the decade before only 212,000 had been employed in these areas. A government policy was introduced to ensure their training, ‘Dilution’.

Olive Monkhouse, Chief Woman Dilution Officer, Ministry of Munitions gave a paper on this at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a debate followed. It was accepted that when properly trained the women were in fact as good as, if not better, than the men. Men are in part credited with the programme’s success "The successful employment …in an almost equal degree to the skilled man, and the employer": the employer in selecting tasks and the man ‘using all their brains and skill’ to train, and socialise the work environment. Concerns for the women’s capabilities were very real, they had to be properly trained as soldiers lives could literally depend on it. Concerns about the reaction of the existing workforce and management were also paramount as some managers refused to believe women were capable of being fitters, tool-turners etc. Monkhouse also notes that the women "face[d] obstacles both necessary and  unnecessary"; some male staff members would tease, or even sexually harass, the women and thus their safety was a real issue; welfare also affected production and a Health of Munition Workers' Committee was formed. Practical problems such as a lack of facilities also had to be overcome, as was the fact that most of the women were not used to factory work, organisation or associated environments.

Concerns were real and practical: this was a new realm for most of the women and the concern for their welfare was uppermost. Discussion followed Monkhouse's paper, on whether these women might remain in engineering after the war and what the effects on the ‘comfort and happiness’ of their homes might be.

Michael Longridge, the President, acknowledged that Monkhouse got top billing and that she was something of a sensation and summed up the situation of women in factories as "a sign of the times".  We are told several women were in the audience and Longridge was keen for them to speak but they would not. Monkhouse was the first women to give a paper.

Making the Napier Aero engine in 1915

Making the Napier Aero engine in 1915

by User Not Found | 13 Aug, 2014


Leave a comment
  1. muhammad AK | Apr 26, 2018
    Looking towards reading more. Good report post. Thanks Again. Great. I must say i enjoy this article. Significantly obliged. Whoa, great blog. Thanks Again. Great.Dissertation proofreading Services UK
  2. daniyal157 | Apr 26, 2018
    Thanks ever so for you personally post.Really looking towards read more. I value the article.Really many thanks! Significantly obliged. Actually loved this information post. Cool.
  3. softrole | Apr 26, 2018
    <a href=””>click here</a>
  4. Ahsan Azam | Apr 25, 2018
    Great info. I love all the posts, I really enjoyed, I would like more information about this, because it is very nice., Thanks for sharing... ΗΛΕΚΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΙ ΑΘΗΝΑ ΚΕΝΤΡΟ
  5. Ahsan Azam | Apr 25, 2018

    Great info. I love all the posts, I really enjoyed, I would like more information about this, because it is very nice., Thanks for sharing... <a href="">ΗΛΕΚΤΡΟΛΟΓΟΙ ΑΘΗΝΑ ΚΕΝΤΡΟ</a>

  6. adarsh | Apr 25, 2018
    I like reading an article that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment! cheesy instagram captions
  7. coreanderson23 | Apr 25, 2018
    Easily, the article is actually the best topic on this registry related issue. I fit in with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the fantasti c lucidity in your writing. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. pineapple game
  8. daniyal157 | Apr 25, 2018
    Thanks ever so for you personally post.Really getting excited about read more. I price the article.Really thanks! Much obliged. Really liked this article post. Cool.
  9. muhammad AK | Apr 25, 2018
    I really take pleasure in the blog. Actually looking towards read more. Hold writing. Thanks for sharing, this can be a excellent article. Actually getting excited about study more. Actually Great. Amazing article. Actually looking forward to read more. Hold writing.
  10. daniyal157 | Apr 25, 2018
    Hello good article, I must say i liked studying it!canadian immigration lawyer
  11. daniyal157 | Apr 25, 2018
    Hey great article, I seriously enjoyed reading it!quebec investor program
  12. Yash raj | Apr 25, 2018
    Our main aim is to save clients effort, time and penalties prevention incurred due to the lack of knowledge of Qatar Laws & unorganized work that could definitely lead to a major penalty that absolutely can affect your company. Are you looking for Start a new business in Qatar you are the right place .. We offer cheap rate PRO services in Qatar. Best quality,speedy & responsible service.
  13. muhammad AK | Apr 24, 2018
    Claim, you got a nice website post. Really thanks! Actually Great. Major thanks for the blog. Much thanks again. Great. Really liked this post. Thanks Again. Great.
  14. daniyal157 | Apr 24, 2018
    Liked just of your website post.Really getting excited about read more. Fantastic.กรีนเคอมิน
  15. muhammad AK | Apr 23, 2018
    Thanks for a person's post. Actually looking towards read more. Cool. Actually take pleasure in anyone spreading this specific website post. Actually appreciate it! Actually insurance
  16. muhammad AK | Apr 22, 2018
    Hey there terrific write-up, I must say i experienced looking at that! Thanks for that great beneficial post. Keep up the fantastic work.scr888
  17. zcxvbz | Apr 22, 2018
  18. xzvbzx | Apr 22, 2018
  19. muhammad AK | Apr 22, 2018
  20. muhammad AK | Apr 22, 2018
  21. wsm | Apr 22, 2018
  22. muhammad AK | Apr 22, 2018
  23. bzxbxz | Apr 22, 2018
  24. Vzvzv | Apr 22, 2018
  25. dsgdsg | Apr 22, 2018
  26. dahadhga | Apr 22, 2018
    dh gsdgdatgqa
  27. axgfvasgbva | Apr 22, 2018
  28. xzbzxbz | Apr 22, 2018
  29. hnxzhds | Apr 22, 2018
  30. bzbxz | Apr 22, 2018
  31. vvz | Apr 22, 2018
  32. xv | Apr 22, 2018
  33. gzb | Apr 22, 2018
  34. asgas | Apr 22, 2018
  35. b zxbz | Apr 22, 2018
  36. sgas | Apr 22, 2018
  37. rhs | Apr 22, 2018
  38. muhammad AK | Apr 22, 2018
    Looking towards studying more. Great post. Much thanks again. Cool. Great blog. Really looking towards study more. Cool.mega filmes hd
  39. daniyal157 | Apr 22, 2018
    It is just one great web site article. A lot thank you again. My spouse and i loved a person's blog. Seriously thanks a lot!
    <a href="">purchase ormus</a

  40. daniyal157 | Apr 21, 2018
    Actually enjoy you sharing this blog post. Actually thanks! Actually Cool. Thanks ever so for you website article. Thanks Again. Actually Great. Actually recognize you sharing that post. Actually thank you! Want more. Job Vacancies in Hyderabad
  41. muhammad AK | Apr 19, 2018
    I value the blog article. Actually many thanks! Significantly obliged. Good article post. Hold writing. A circular of applause for the post. Thanks Again. Really Cool.Job in Delhi
  42. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    Very informative post. Really getting excited about read more. Awesome. I really like and enjoy your blog post. Much obliged. This is one brilliant post. Thanks Again.pic5678
  43. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    Very educational post. Really getting excited about read more. Awesome. I really like and appreciate your blog post. Significantly obliged. This really is one awesome post. Thanks Again.pic5678
  44. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    Really informative post. Actually looking forward to study more. Awesome. I enjoy and recognize your blog post. Much obliged. This is one wonderful post. Thanks Again.ซ่อม iPhone
  45. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    Getting excited about studying more. Great website post. Actually Great. This is one great website post. Really thank you! Excellent article post. Need more.แชมพูล้างรถ
  46. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    Looking forward to examining more. Great website post. Really Great. That is one amazing website post. Actually thank you! Very good article post. Need more.อะไหล่ไอโฟน
  47. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    Looking forward to studying more. Great blog post. Actually Great. This really is one awesome blog post. Actually thanks! Very good report post. Want more.ดัมเบล
  48. muhammad AK | Apr 18, 2018
    I truly take pleasure in the article. Thanks Again. Fantastic. Loved every bit of your article post. Hold writing. Actually enjoyed that article. Really getting excited about read more. Awesome.ครีมรักษาฝ้าที่ดีที่สุด
  49. pioneerseo | Apr 18, 2018
    In the bloggers interview series today, we have Zac Johnson with us. Zac is a well known personality in the affiliate marketing and blogging niche. We all use to address him as super affiliate marketer and problogger. interview
  50. mobile | Apr 17, 2018
    The Fixtech is a mobile repairing and laptop repairing company in Mile End, London

    Leave a comment

    The photographs show just how varied the work that women undertook was: and the variety of new skills that therefore had to the taught and obtained. This new workforce, alongside the remaining male workers, not only delivered munitions but also worked on other weapons and in back offices and research roles. Both at home and on the Continent women worked in forestry, medicine and as drivers.

    Click here to read the full paper and discussions. Or here to read about the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield.

    Views from the Home Front

    Oliver Heaviside, seen here, became a telegraph clerk for the Anglo-Danish Telegraph Company, later the Great Northern Telegraph Company, in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1868. After 1874, he began work on a series of problems in telegraphy and signal transmission using experimentation, mathematics and vector analysis. He had long and famous disagreements with Sir William Henry Preece over the introduction of inductance to long distance communication cables to improve the transmission of signals, amongst others and was an active letter writer. Heaviside continued his correspondence with leading engineers and scientists throughout the war. They contain commentary on the war, including personal views.

    Poisonous gases were one area of debate, between Heaviside and the Oxford University lecturer Dr CV Burton. In 1915 Burton went to work in the Royal Aircraft Factory, Department H (Physics) at Farnborough; he was killed in an explosion there in 1917. His views on the use of poisonous gases offer a window into how people at home felt about aggressive methods at the front:

    “If it is merely a question of dirty tricks played on occasion, like white flag treachery, we needn’t follow the methods of the enemy; but when methods are resorted to which give an advantage to the user and may be or paramount military importance, we can’t afford to fight such a one-sided battle, whatever degree of barbarity may be involved. Don’t you agree? One needn’t be vindictive enough to choose a specially painful way when more humane means are available, but I’m afraid any gases which can be used in sufficient quantities to be effective will cause fearful suffering. We can’t help that: the alternative is to let ourselves to be beaten, because we are too considerate to fight the enemy with his own weapons; which would mean that the chlorine-fiends would rule the earth”.

    Ironically it was phosgene (used as a chemical weapon) which killed him. Burton would also share anecdotes of his wartime work and experiences:

    “One of our pilots had a thrilling adventure the other day. He started from Farnborough to take a new type of machine to the front: it is about 1 ½ hours flight. As he was nearing the French coast, in driving rain, the engine suddenly seized, the propeller smashed with the sudden stoppage, & bits of the engine flew about, some of them penetrating the wings. He could see no land, and took off his coat and waistcoat in readiness for a plunge into the foaming sea (it was very rough). Then he caught sight of a blacking object that looked like Boulogne pier & made for it;... say 120 m.p.h. The ambulance people rushed out to his assistance, but he had managed to turn up-wind, and alight in a field without further mishap.”

    Another correspondent was George Frederick Charles Searle, he informed Heaviside how Burton died:

    “Burton was killed about 15 or 16 months ago at the Royal Aircraft ’Establishment’ (late ‘Factory’). He was doing something with Phosgene, a very poisonous gas. This is easily liquefied and he had a ‘syphon’ (like a soda water syphon) of the liquid. The bottle burst (it was not at high pressure). Burton got the stuff all over him. He seemed at first as if he had just recovered but a few hours later died.” Tragically, Searle goes on to say, ‘Mrs Burton a day or two later took poison and died also.”

    Through letters we get a glimpse of how people, indirectly, involved in the war felt and saw the conflict: Burton offers a pragmatic view which may seem shocking in today's context; he also though offers a 'fun' boys own adventure story, which suggests an element of enthusiasm for the excitement of war.

    Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925). Read his biography in Resources.

    Burton’s last letter to Heaviside (he died 4 weeks later) dated 30 December 1916
    Burton’s last letter to Heaviside (he died 4 weeks later) dated 30 Dec 1916.

    Ellis papers and image,
    NAEST 155/3 IET Archives.


    Factory workers, IMechE Archive except for the following used with thanks to Tyne and Wear Archive for image A7774/2 Lathe operator at Heaton Works, 1914-1918 (first in gallery) and to Imperial War Museum for images Q 30040 Women workers at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell and Q106565 Members of the Women’s Forestry Corps in Sussex.

    Heaverside portrait and letter excerpt, IET Archive.