- Heather Bell at Tipton - April 1941 - 

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My Aunt Daphne March advertised in the Times in the early 1940s for crew to help her operate her family's Frank Nurser built working boat Heather Bell.

Woman Owner-Skipper. Oxford graduate.
Wants help to run motor barge in canal,
river and estuary with general cargo.
Work of national importance; share of
small freights. Write Box 5287

Daphne probably started the idea of women taking the place of men on the working boats in order that they could be released for more appropriate war related work. They were known as IW (Inland Waterways but sometimes referred to as Idle Women but correctly known as Trainees!). Her first crew was her mother Margaret (who is in some of the photos) which were taken by the Ministry of Information on 28-April-1941. A fuller account of her work is here which she wrote for her Oxford College immediately after the war. She operated mainly between Gloucester and Birmingham (using the Severn and the Birmingham and Worcester) and then up the Shropshire Union to Ellsmere Port and sometimes to the Potteries.

Some of the small images may look out of proportion but if you click on it you will see a full size at the original aspect ratio. All images are © me and the Imperial War Museum.


Heather Bell in the Black Country Heather Bell at Tipton Daphne posing for the photographer Daphne posing for the photographer
Heather Bell in the Black Country Heather Bell in the Black Country Daphne posing for the photographer - the size of the muscles in her arms shows the work she has been doing Daphne posing for the photographer
Stowing cabin strings Preparing the evening meal Daphne's Mum preparing the evening meal Daphne filling the kettle in a posed shot
Daphne stowing the cabin strings on Heather Bell in a beautifully framed image Daphne's first crew (her mother, Margaret) preparing the evening meal on Heather Bell Daphne's mother preparing a meal in the boatman's cabin - always known as the back cabin The only water was in the water can - sometimes called a 'Buckby' can; so called because it was made in Buckby! Therefore not all cans are 'Buckby' cans!
Daphne and her mother Unloading 352 bags of flour A fully laden boat Heather Bell moored at Tipton
Daphne with her mother Unloading 352 bags of flour from Heather Bell at Tipton Heather Bell fully laden with 352 bags of flour at Tipton - April 1941 Heather Bell partially laden with flour at Tipton - April 1941
Bags of flour one by one Bow-hauling Heather Bell An empty boat Working the lock at Tipton
352 bags of flour for the mill at Tipton loaded one by one Bow-hauling Heather Bell to wind at Tipton Heather Bell now empty at Tipton giving some idea of her size Heather Bell locking through at Tipton
No weed hatch then Mind you don't fall Descending Tipton All in a day's work
Clearing the prop with a short shaft - no weed hatch in those days! A well known picture - Daphne about to fall in perhaps at Tipton Heather Bell descending Tipton Heather Bell being maintained. Nearly everyone is interested in the style of clothing - brogues and wool serge trousers I think

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