Photograph showing two women working on a steam locomotive, 1942, Catalogue ref: RAIL 1057/3280
The government wanted women to join the Women’s Auxiliary Services of the Army, Navy and Air Force so they could take the places of men who could then be sent off to fight. As a result, in 1941 they introduced conscription for all single women aged between 20 and 30. Women had to choose whether they wanted to join the armed forces or work in vital industries. Early in 1942, women aged 19 were also called up. By January 1942, over 213,000 were serving in the Auxiliary Services. The number of women entering the services fell slightly in 1943 as more people were needed to work in aircraft production but by June 1944 over 450,000 women were serving in the armed forces (the equivalent number of men was 4 ½ million).