You are in: Display

Boatwomen Training Scheme, 1942-1945

In 1941, Frances Marian 'Molly' Traill approached the Ministry of War Transport with a scheme to train women boat crews to help the country with its shortage of manpower on the canals. The Ministry was impressed and persuaded the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company to pioneer the scheme. Molly Traill and Eily Gayford were recruited as trainers when the scheme launched in February 1942. The scheme was later extended to other canals such as the Leeds and Liverpool.

The boats worked in pairs, one a motor and one a butty, usually with a crew of three. The cargo was mainly coal and grain. Work was physically demanding and life on the canal boats was cramped and uncomfortable. The women had to put up with resentment and petty acts of aggression and practical jokes from the men on other boats and those employed in the warehouses. Volunteers, usually middle-class, were scarce and hard to retain. Having been trained most women themselves became trainers. Estimates as to the number of pairs of boats crewed by women on the Grand Union Canal vary from 15 to 30 at any one time, but only six women stayed for the full duration of the scheme from 1942 to 1945.

This letter, sent to new recruits by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, sets out the pay and conditions for the work.

Title Boatwomen Training Scheme, 1942-1945
Maker --
Production Date 1942-1945
Format Document
Copyright --
Holding Institution TUC Library Collections, London Metropolitan University
Related Objects Boatwomen Training Scheme, 1942-1945
Boatwomen Training Scheme, 1942-1945
Boatwomen Training Scheme, 1943
If you would like to contact us in relation to either the objects you see here, or the site itself, please use our Feedback Form