Gabrielle ‘ Bobby’ West
Gabrielle West, known as ‘Bobby’, was born the daughter of a vicar in 1890. In 1916 she trained as a policewoman and by January 1917 was working at a munitions factory close to the Welsh mining village of Pembrey in Carmarthenshire. The factory is built on the Burrows sandhills, the most desolate spot in this world. Where the most dangerous work is done the sheds are actually inside the hills. The hill is scooped out in the middle and is entered by this small tunnel through the mound. In this way the sheds are quite invisible from outside. This part of the factory doesn’t look like a factory at all, more like a gigantic rabbit warren than anything else. In these very dangerous sheds only five or six workers are allowed in at a time and if an extra person wants to go in, one of those inside must come out. These are the ‘sieving sheds’ where powder intended for making cordite and ballistite is put through a metal sieve.
The girls here are very rough – so are the conditions. The language is sometimes too terrible. But they are also very impressionable: quite friendly one minute, shrieking with rage and almost ready to tear one to pieces the next.
The previous team of policewomen had made themselves thoroughly unpopular with the munitions workers who rejoiced in abusing them.
One of our duties is to get girls out of their dining halls and back to their sheds at the proper times. When Buckie and I and the three constables first attempted this they hooted and booed at us and, when we tried to insist, they all went on strike and announced that they would down the first constable who came near them. Buckie and I marched boldly amongst