The Second World War was a mechanized, total war. What happened on the front line depended on the home front. World economies were mobilized on both sides to produce the equipment, ammunition, and supplies needed for victory. Canada’s war production was critical to the Allied triumph in 1945. By war’s end, the nation was fourth in war production (after the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom), supplying not only Canadian forces but Allied forces overseas.
As part of this massive effort, General Engineering Company (Canada) Limited built and operated a massive fuse-filling plant in Scarborough, Ontario. Without reliable fuses, Allied munitions would have been useless on the battlefield. Bomb girls — women war workers — were essential to the fuse-filling effort. Not only were they available as a source of labour (with many able-bodied men overseas or involved in other important war work), but they had the right skill set to succeed in the job. These women (who at one point made up 95 percent of the plant’s workforce) worked and lived under tremendous pressure to provide for their families and help win the war. This is the story of the bomb girls of Scarboro, the largest fuse-filling munitions factory in Canada.
3:40 The Pre-War State of the Munitions Industry in Canada
5:00 General Engineering Company (Canada) Limited
9:22 Project No. 24 in Scarborough, Ontario
12:40 Recruiting the Bomb Girls
14:50 The Unique Needs of the Workforce
16:10 Grace Hyndman, Personnel Director
16:50 Florence Ignatieff, Chief Dietitian
19:00 The Importance of the Work at GECO
21:05 The Process of Assembling a Fuse
22:35 Day to Day Life at the Plant
26:10 Carol LeCappelain and The Yellow Canaries
27:28 The Pressures the Bomb Girls Faced
30:45 Peggy MacKay, Woman of Sorrow
32:28 Fondest Memories at the Plant
35:14 Scarboro’s Safety Record
37:12 Scarboro’s Total Impact on the War Effort
37:32 Labour Relations at Scarboro
41:16 Victory in Europe at Scarboro
43:04 Postwar Scarborough & What Remains of the GECO Plant
44:50 Remembering the Bomb Girls
Barbara Dickson is a sought-after motivational public speaker, local historian, and writer of fiction and periodical pieces. She lives in Scarborough, Ontario. Barbara is the author of our subject, Bomb Girls: Trading Aprons for Ammo. You can learn more about Barbara’s work at http://www.barbaradickson.ca/.
The following links offer more information on the topics discussed in this episode:
Juno Beach & Beyond is hosted and edited by Alex Fitzgerald-Black, the centre’s Digital Projects Coordinator.
The Bomb Girls clips are from the season 1 trailer on the MuseTrailers YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xkj8CXmHh0
Mackenzie King’s speech to British Parliament from the British Pathé YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SlEvclY5LE&t=48s
Artillery firing sounds from the CBC News: The National YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsCSQ4uWR1Y
Female veteran’s voice (Eileen Green, née Short) Courtesy of The Memory Project, Historica Canada: http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/383:eileen-green-nee-short/
Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech from Jonathan Thomas’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB5wZtV1MWM
Spitfire sound effect from Jason Kirby’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgZI4tAoMN0
Dramatic Interlude by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at email@example.com.