Miss Fielding and Platt's memories of the Boiler Yard, 1941-1945
Daphne Collier joined Fielding and Platt in 1941, aged 17. She had wanted to join her sister doing war work with the Wrens in the Scotland. However when she went to the labour exchange in Gloucester she was told that she was too young, so was sent to do war work at Fielding and Platt.
The women of the “Top Shop”
Like the other women who were required to do war work there, Daphne was initially made to assist young male apprentices in the Light or “Top” Machine Shop.
I start work on the Monday – big bracer trousers, overalls, hair all tucked up, scarf all round your head so you won’t get in the machinery.”
However, after a fortnight, she was told she had to work nights, which she was unable to do, so was moved to work in the Boiler Yard.
A trombone in The Boiler Yard
As an assistant in the Boiler Yard, Daphne helped the men with many of the jobs. From sweeping up, to bending pipes over braziers, to packing presses into “great big crates” for transportation.
During the war, about 50 men would have worked in the Boiler Yard. Some were even sent from Plymouth and Liverpool as work at Fielding and Platt was classed as a reserved occupation.
At that time, Daphne recalls that Mr Sparks was one of the senior men in the Boiler Yard.
“He was a gentlemen, a church man, and he thought the world of me”
Mr Sparks was also the bandmaster of Gloucester Band and, on a Monday afternoon, would play his trombone in the Boiler Yard in preparation for the band rehearsals that evening. When he did, Daphne would get onto the granite slate used for bending the pipes and tap-dance along to what he played.
She also recalls an occasion on which she put on a show in the canteen for the Boiler Yard men. It was one of the few occasions on which they would use the canteen.
“The beautiful American music” at the dancehalls
Most nights Daphne would go out dancing at the Bath’s, The Mercer’s Hall, Princes Hall, or occasionally to Ashchurch, although no other Fielding employees went there.
“You name the dancehall and we were there, and that’s the truth and that was our life, and it was lovely.”
Many a time Daphne would be walking to work through the docks with her eyes closed because she’d got home and had to be back at work at 7.30.
She recalls that “you’d get in trouble with if you weren’t on time” but that “It didn’t matter ’cause they couldn’t sack you in those days, but you had to put up with the trouble, because if you got the wrong side of them the bosses could make your lives a misery”.
However, unfortunately, once war was over, Daphne, was made redundant, along with all the other men the company had taken on in the Boiler Yard during the war.
If you have any memories of Mr Sparks, Daphne, or the Boiler Yard in wartime please leave a comment at the bottom of this page, or why not visit our section about Wartime at the Works?