THE “SWYNNERTON Roses” who risked their lives to make vital munitions for the Second World War should be honoured alongside the armed forces, the daughter of an ex-worker has said.
Ivy Johnson’s delicate but dangerous job at the Royal Ordnance Factory 55 at Swynnerton included working with detonators and one of her friends, pregnant at the time, lost her forearms in an explosion.
Mrs Johnson, nee Wetherell, passed away 32 years ago but her daughter Rhoda Johnson is determined that the workers’ war efforts should not be forgotten.
A commemorative rose bed was unveiled at the former factory site in July. But Rhoda, of Stafford, believes the Swynnerton Roses should also be honoured during the annual Remembrance Sunday parade, with a representative marching alongside those paying tribute to the armed forces.
She would also like to see a permanent memorial to munitions workers installed at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas.
She said: “I am waiting to hear back from the Royal British Legion about the ceremony. I have wanted to do this for a few years now as they have never really been recognised.
“My mother, who was from Grimsby, made the cartridges for the bullets but sometimes they were sent to do the detonators. They would have to build up their dexterity and courage to do this.
“She had a friend, who was pregnant, who lost her forearms - it was quite harrowing. But she said she would have done it again because she realised how important it was.”
Rhoda’s call for the Roses’ honour has been backed by Stafford Borough councillor Jean Tabernor, whose own mother Sally Mardling was a Swynnerton Rose.
Now 94, Mrs Mardling, who lives near Hilderstone, suffered mercury rash on her face - a skin complaint caused by exposure to the poisonous metal - during her time at the factory.
The workers would sing while they worked, she said, but all would go quiet if they heard an explosion, which was a regular occurrence in the factory. Some workers were blinded or maimed in
lasts and they had to tape up their wedding rings and remove other jewellery before starting work in case the metal sparked an explosion.
“West One, which did the detonators, was known as ‘Suicide Section’ because of the explosions. When I told them I was pregnant they wouldn’t let me work there.”