Women Workers at the Royal Arsenal in 1914
Women Workers at the Royal Arsenal in 1914

The 100th anniversary since the start of the Great War this year highlights the key role played by the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich to the war effort. Our club was founded by workers at the Royal Arsenal and was already a large gun and ammunitions manufacturing site before 1914, The Royal Arsenal in Woolwich expanded into a multitude of factories servicing the war effort. The huge site, had its own internal railway system, employed 80,000 workers and has been described as the ‘secret city’ of Woolwich.

The work was hazardous. Factory workers faced the dangers of unstable explosives, possible air raids as well as the health risks from handling noxious substances known to cause a range of medical disorders from skin complaints to bone disintegration.

Women made up around a third of the workforce at its peak. Employment at the Arsenal was regarded as well paid, but female workers did not receive the same wages and benefits as their male counterparts. During the war, legislation was passed to ensure that female workers could be quickly dismissed easily when the conflict finished.

It might seem unbelievable today that such discrimination against women could exist. It shouldn’t be forgotten that despite great progress in recent decades, women are still more likely than men to be in low-paying jobs and are under-represented in senior positions.