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Eaton Bray WI Report

This article was published in March 2008. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

Womens InstituteAt Eaton Bray WI's March meeting the members welcomed guest speaker Mr Runnalls Davis who gave an interesting talk and slide show on the work carried out by women operating canal narrow boats during the Second World War.

Little is known of this branch of the war effort' in carrying out vital work, transporting essential supplies along the canal systems from 1939 until 1945.

On learning that many narrow boats had been 'tied up' because of the lack of men to operate them, a group of young ladies, most of them from very affluent families, decided to man the boats. Volunteers were recruited mostly from their friends, and despite their lack of knowledge on how to do the work they received permission from the ministry to operate the boats.

The traditional canal boat families watched the volunteers' many mistakes with much glee!

However by the end of the war the women had earned the respect of the boating families.

There has never been any formal recognition of this work; all the women were ever issued with was a badge stating they were on National Service IW (inland waterways). But some wag had given them the name Idle Women, thus the title of the talk!

The next meeting is on Monday April 7 at 7 30pm at Eaton Bray Village Hall. Friends and new members are always welcome.

Source: Eaton Bray WI