Morning everyone I have two signed copies of my latest Brogan family saga series, A Ration Book Wedding. Just tell me which underground station is the factory where Francesca works? Post your comments below the blog and I’ll be drawing the two luck winners tomorrow evening at 3pm 75 years to the day when Winston Churchill announced WW2 was finally over.
Francesca Fabrino, Fran to her friends, grasped the lever just above her and pulled it down, watching through the Perspex lens of her goggles as the drill bit bored a hole into the solid cylinder of metal. Feeling the tip of the bit reach its goal, she quickly released her hold and allowed the spring to raise the mechanism. She pressed the pedal by her right foot and the component – designed to allow the propellers of a Lancaster bomber to turn – popped out and joined the others in a wooden crate to her left. Pushing away the tendril of ebony hair dangling in her vision, Fran shifted her foot across to the other peddle, stamped on it and released another plug of aluminium into the drill bed, then repeated the process.
She, with at least two hundred other women and girls, was deep beneath the ground working in the newly opened Plessey factory. The factory, which had previously been used to assemble field radios and wirelesses, ran along the tunnel of the Central line between Leytonstone in the west and Newberry Park in the east.
Francesca was working in the aircraft engine component section under Wanstead Station. She and the other women operating the machinery sat facing the platform wall with the dome of the tunnel arching over them. Behind her ran the narrow gauge railway used to ship the finished components to the collection shafts from where they were taken to the surface. Although she was in one of the deepest sections of the tunnel, at five hundred feet below street level, the vibration of the German bombs above could be felt. She’d been allocated to work at the factory when she’d signed up a couple months ago when the new war Conscription Act meant all women between the ages of eighteen and fifty, without dependants, were required to register for war work. As she was twenty-four and single, she had volunteered for factory work to ensure she didn’t get drafted into the ATS.
It wasn’t that she would have minded being in the ATS. Not at all. In fact, if the truth were told, she’d have preferred to be up top driving a petrol wagon or ferrying supplies to army bases rather than deep beneath the earth but her father had been through enough and she didn’t want him to worry any more than he already did, so she’d opted for the safer option of factory work.
Feeling the sweat trickling down between her shoulder blades, Francesca yanked down on the lever again. A fine spray of lubricant drenched the fresh metal plug and curls of aluminium escaped as the drill bit deep again. As she released the lever the hooter, signalling the end of the shift, blasted out. Giving a silent prayer of thanks, Francesca stamped on the pedal and ejected the metal component. She flicked the red switch off and the whirling drill ground to a halt. Yawning, she stepped away from the now-idle machine then turned towards the double doors of the exit.