Fauldhouse women at war

Fauldhouse women at war

As soon as war was declared, Fauldhouse women began knitting ‘comforts’ for the troops. Throughout the war, several local women made it their special task to collect and send parcels of food and clothing to the local lads in the forces and to those who were prisoners of war. Women took a leading role throughout the war in fund-raising and charitable work.

At the very start of the war, this advert appeared in The Scotsman:

SERVANT (general) wishes situation; age 20; wage £18; L. Waddell, Quarry Road, Fauldhouse. 

The war brought new job opportunities to women. So many men went off to war, that employers were forced to employ women in jobs they would never have been allowed to do before. Girls in factories and munitions works could earn between £1 and £4 a week, depending on their skill and experience. Young women were no longer going to be satisfied with £18 a year as a servant, or the long hours and lack of independence.

Other jobs remained open to women during the war. A few Fauldhouse women worked in nursing, for example, Councillor Steele’s daughter. Many attended 'ambulance' (first aid) classes under Dr Gilchrist, the GP. Later in the war, formal women’s military services were set up – the WAAC, the WRAF, the WRNS, but no Fauldhouse women have been traced who served in them.

Mining employed a few women. It had its danger, even though women were not employed underground. Mary McCann (21) was injured in an accident at Greenrigg Pit - while pushing a coal wagon she fell beneath it.  She died two days later in hospital.

But many Fauldhouse girls left the village to make the most of wartime opportunities in these new fields of work. Some worked in the Atlas and North British Steel foundries in Armadale and Bathgate. Others worked in munitions factories, filling shells with explosives - a dangerous and unhealthy job. Others worked as clerks, bakers, railway porters, and postwomen.

However, when the men came home from the forces again, they were given their jobs back, and in most cases, the women were dismissed. But as a result of the essential work they undertook during the war years, women were given the vote in 1918.

©1914-18: Fauldhouse Remembers Group

For more information on any aspect of West Lothian and the First World War, contact localhistory@westlothian.gov.uk.




Young woman
Annie Ostler worked in Crofthead Co-op and lived with her parents and brothers in Pleasure Cottage, Sheephousehill. Her brothers, coalminers, had exemption from conscription. (West Lothian Local History Library)
knitting patterns
'Be useful in time of war' - women knitted 'comforts' - scarves, gloves, socks, balaclava helmets, and even 'semmits' - to help the troops withstand the intense cold of the trenches. (Courtesy of Alan Dowell)
Considered shocking at first, trousers became accepted as practical wear for working women. This Fauldhouse woman worked at the huge Georgetown munitions works in Renfrewshire. (Courtesy of William Williamson)