World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                            Joan Russell 

Life On The Home Front Around Newton Chambers

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Joan Russell, Ada Needham & Colin Lill.
Location of story: Sheffield


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Anne Payne of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Joan Russell.


I was working at the Izal paper factory, based at Newton Chambers Industrial Estate in Chapeltown Sheffield, from aged 14 till I was 22, and I was there all through the war. Our factory was producing chemical enhanced products, and next door was the other Izal factory where so many disinfectant products were made. We used to work to Workers’ Playtime music on the wireless.

I married my first partner in 1942 when he was on leave from HMS Ramillies. He had a very active naval career as an AB (Able Bodied Seaman) and torpedo man. He served in the D-Day landings in tank landing craft, in the Italian campaign and Eastern fleet. He also torpedoed in the Madagascar campaign in 1942.

My new partner of 13 years and my first husband both served on the Ramillies together, and he married his first wife on the same leave as we did. After the death of my first husband, Charles, we met up after his first wife Magdalene had died, and I married the stoker mechanic who knew my husband as a child. So one sailor died and one wife died, which meant that providence had it that one sailor and one wife remarried. The marriages were as good as we could make them by a combination of putting clothing and food coupons together and by donations from family members. They were quite effective.

My Dad won the military medal in World War 1 when he was in the Yorks. and Lancs. Regiment, and he was made a King’s Corporal. His name was Colin Lill, but all I can remember about the reason for the medal was that he knocked out a machine gun position. At that time, my mum worked as an overhead crane driver. Her name prior to getting married to Colin (after WW1) was Ada Needham.

In the Second World War, my mum went to work for Newton Chambers again as an overhead crane driver at the tank factory. That period was important as Newton Chambers turned out over 1000 Churchill tanks, and a model still stands on display near the village of Warren. Bombs fell near the local villages of Warren and Howbrook, and they were probably trying to target the large industrial complex of Newton Chambers. Mum hated having to depart her crane cabin to scramble down in a hurry after the sirens sounded. There was a works hospital built into a tree-and-shrub-covered hillside. I am still in possession of an aerial photograph of Newton Chambers, which my first husband Charles got hold of, and which was covered in German writing.


So the civilian population, both women and men added an important contribution to the war effort.