Festive News 2017 2017 - Page 15

WARTIME BRAVERY FINALLY RECOGNISED Amy Hicks was just a teenager when she signed up to do her bit for the war effort in 1941. Little did she know when she started work at the Munition s Factory at Rotherwas that she would be putting her life on the line. She was 18, living with her parents in Broxwood near Kington picking fruit on local farms. World War 2 was raging across Europe and 2,000 women in Hereford were making bombs to attack the enemy. They were nick-named ‘The Canary Girls’ because the dust from the explosives turned their skin yellow. Amy was put to work at the end of the 25 pounder bomb production line inspecting every bomb before it left the factory on its killer mission. Amy, who will be 95 in January tells how lucky she was to survive unharmed. When the factory was attacked in 1942 by German bombers, killing several of her fellow workers she was waiting for the bus to bring her into work. On another occasion when a morning explosion on the production line caused more deaths she was on the afternoon shift. “When I started my shift the walls were still covered in blood” she said, adding “I was also lucky that my skin didn’t turn too yellow because I was not actually handling the TNT.” She recalls they were given milk to drink to help overcome the yellowing of the skin and once a week were allowed a hot bath. Before starting work they were searched to make sure they were not carrying anything that could trigger an explosion. Said Amy, “We were paid £3 a week. I thought I was rich. I bought my mum a new pair of shoes out of my first wage packet.” She also bought herself a small leather case for five shillings to carry her sandwiches to work and still has it at her home in Staunton on Wye. She and her husband Donald, who died in 1990 had four sons, Alan, Brian, Nigel and Alex who died in a car accident aged 17 and a daughter Jenny who has been kept busy ferrying mum to a host of events remembering the role Hereford – and its women – played winning the war. In the summer Amy, together with 32 other ladies who made the bombs for the British forces to defeat the Nazi was presented with a specially made ‘Front Line Duty’ medal, a long overdue recognition of the valour of the Canary Girls who risked their own lives every time they went to work. She has also been filmed for a BBC TV Amy with her medal programme ‘Women at War’ to be shown during Remembrance week in November and was a guest of Kate Adie, the famous TV war correspondent when she spoke about her new book ‘Fighting on the Home Front’ at The Courtyard recently. Rotherwas, on the outskirts of Hereford was a fine country estate for centuries until the start of the First World War when it became a vast complex employing 4,000 women, making bombs. It did the same task in World War 2. Today, Rotherwas is a modern industrial estate creating 3,000 jobs. Now, there are just the memories of the role it played making the weapons that helped Britain win two world wars. Future generations must know the sacrifices that were made for freedom. That’s why it is important to tell the stories of Amy and her fellow munitions workers who helped save Britain from tyranny. 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