Della is a local North Staffordshire girl having lived most of her early life at Hanford, and has spent her later life at Basford, Newcastle. During the 1940s she moved away to stay with her Aunt Claire who lived at Leadenham, which is about half way between Grantham and Lincoln.

It was while she was living here that she applied for a job at the A.V.Roe factory in Brace Bridge Heath. Avro at Brace Bridge Heath was mainly a reclamation works where damaged aircraft would be stripped for re-usable or re-buildable parts. Della was successful in getting a job there and was soon put to work on a jig assembling ailerons for Avro Ansons.

She travelled to work by bus and had to be ready for an 8am start. On arrival, she and the other girls would put their coats onto a large hanger that was then hoisted up into the hangar ceiling, only to be lowered at the end of the day.

In Della’s own words – “Because of the work I did, I used to wear trousers all the time, mainly for convenience more than fashion. My job was to drill and rivet the struts and other parts together, we did not know much about the aircraft other than it was an important part and required some skill. After a few weeks, I became a semi-skilled fitter that was not unusual at that time because most of the men were in the Armed Forces. My work had to be spot on and had to have a thorough inspection before it went to the next section. I remember that the next section was with a group of women whose job was to hand stitch a sort of canvas material onto the parts I had made. The thread had to be waxed and every third stitch had to have a knot tied into it. It was very difficult to do and was hard on their fingers, but I never heard any of them complain. After the women had finished the work, it would be inspected and then go in to another part of the partitioned hangar for ‘doping’. The smell was awful and thankfully, you only got a whiff of it when the doors were opened and shut quickly. After doping the canvas would be strong and taut like a drum, then another inspection of course”.

Della has fond memories of the people she worked with and says – “I can still remember the Chief Inspector, Bob Muir, who certainly knew his job and kept us on our toes. We all worked hard and would have just a half hour lunch break, long enough to eat our sandwiches and make a cup of tea. I would sit with Bob Muir and another work colleague who’s name was Cyril Greenfield. We would usually talk about our respective families. At five o’clock, the hangers with our coats on would be lowered and it was time for home. I enjoyed my days at A. V. Roe and often think about my old friends as we like a family”.

Della says that she will try to remember other facts about her time there and add to her story. Avro, Brace Bridge Heath was extremely close to RAF Waddington, and there are some stories of seeing Lancaster bombers being towed between them, down the A15, Sleaford Road. One of the hangars at RAF Waddington was given over to A.V.Roe where they built Lancaster Bombers from reclaimed parts brought down from Brace Bridge Heath.

Della Dawson

Life At The Avro Factory