Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines

By Henrietta Heald

The true story of Britain’s early women engineers

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Watch women build a bomber in record time

In the early summer of 1943, after months of relentless bombing raids by the German Luftwaffe, the Ministry of War, in collaboration with the RAF, issued a challenge to one of the factories producing planes for Bomber Command to build an operational Wellington bomber in record-breaking time. The purpose of the exercise was to impress friends and enemies alike. Broughton factory in Flintshire, a few miles from Chester, seized the gauntlet. At its peak, the factory, run by Vickers-Armstrongs for the Ministry of Aircraft Production, was turning out 28 Wellington bombers a week. In total, 5,786 of the aircraft were built there during the war. Today, Broughton manufactures the giant wings of the Airbus A380.

Of the 6,000 people working 12-hour shifts on Broughton's wartime production lines, the majority were women. They came from all walks of life, and few had direct experience of engineering, but, by the time the war ministry issued its challenge, they knew how to assemble the aircraft's fuselage and wings, sew its fabric carapace in double-quick time, drive the roof cranes that shifted the wings and tail fins into position, and install the intricate electrical systems.

As shown in the film clip above, Broughton slashed in half a 48-hour record, set in California, for building and testing the Wellington. And guess who achieved this remarkable feat – 'the girls'.

Back to project page
Share on social


Michael Smith
 Michael Smith says:

There is a fabulous and complete skeletal "Wimpy" at the Brooklands museum in Surrey (the nickname is derived from a portly character in Popeye; the Wellington does look a bit of a bon viveur of a bomber). It really is of the best of Barnes Wallis' many masterpieces of design. The "geodetic" structure meant it could take enormous punishment; the Wellington bomber also features in the wartime film "One of Our Aircraft is Missing". A credit to the women at Broughton for sure!

posted 11th May 2017

Top rewards

65 pledges


Copy of the ebook
Buy now
£25  + shipping
208 pledges


First edition of the hardback, and a copy of the ebook