Women Dock Workers at Newhaven

This is a photograph of some of the women who worked at Newhaven docks during the First World War. If you look carefully, you can see that some of them are wearing War Work badges (they look at bit like Blue Peter badges). The lady standing at the top right is Mrs Clara Cuddington.  She went on to have 8 children and lived until she was 92.

By the beginning of 1918, there was a shortage of men to work on the docks. The civilian workers, by this time, were generally old, the younger men having been conscripted into the army.  They had been supplemented by approximately 700 or 800 men of the Transport Workers Battalion, but these men were now needed  at the Front. It was therefore proposed that women should be employed at the docks, loading the Transport Ships with supplies for the Front.

The women worked in gangs of 25, replacing the work previously done by 20 men. They earned 7d an hour, working an eight hour shift. The gangers received an extra 9d per shift.  The women were paid at the end of their shift.  Most of the women came from Brighton and received free rail transport between Brighton and Newhaven and one free meal during their shift. They loaded packages of food, shells and other supplies, weighing up to 5 cwts (40 stone or 254 kg).  The authorities initially expected to have to employ over 1,000 women, but after trialling  103, realised they would only need between 750 and 800 women.

By Jenny Flood. Photograph by kind permission of Newhaven Museum

You might also be interested in Keith Grieves book “Sussex in the First World War”, published by the Sussex Record Society.  It contains a transcript of a memo from the W Nash, Personal Assistant to the Director General National Labour Supply, Ministry of National Service dated 6th Feb 1918, which was a source for this article. The original can be found at the National Archives (ref. NATS 1/1274).