WW2 Sewing Machinist

Evelyn Elkin of Nottingham

By John Pownall

WW2 Sewing Machinist – Evelyn Elkin of Nottingham.

 I am writing in this instance to record the contribution one of my family made to the war effort during WW2. It is often an overlooked fact that millions of ordinary people were involved. Of course this was not only in the armed forces, but also what was known as the “home front”. They would be working long hours in the production of equipment needed by the armed forces in their efforts to win the war.

          The person concerned was my aunt Evelyn Elkin (nee Pownall). She was the youngest of 5 children. Her family consisted of Dad, Samuel Herbert Pownall, Mum Eliza Ann, older sister Annie, brothers Arthur, Samuel, and Charles with Evelyn being the baby as she used to joke.

          Evelyn told me she was born near to Bobbers Mill in Radford. This would have been on Chapel Street (currently named Cyril Avenue). She said that when she was about 15, all the family moved to Lenton Street on Hyson Green, Radford.

          Evelyn was married to a marvellous man; known to all the family as “Titch”. He was not a big in stature, but a wonderful man with kids. He always clowned around with children and reminded me of being our own family version of Norman Wisdom! His nick name, so engrained in the family that I ask my dad what was his true Christian name? Dad had to think for several minutes before he remembered it was Leslie!

          Evelyn worked for many years in the Hosiery trade in Nottingham. Indeed Nottingham was famous for having pretty girls and women. It was said that there were 4 girls for every boy or man. It was probably only true, due to the fact that there was a preponderance of factories in the locality making clothing, etc. This would attract girls and women to the companies in the city, especially from out from the suburbs. In those times they would mainly employ women (That is another story).

          Evelyn told me that that during the second world war she as a sewing machinist in factories in the Basford and Radford areas; where the companies had contracts to manufacture products for the government. Naturally I thought that it was clothes such as tunics for the army, but to my surprise she told me about following.

          Evelyn said that at one point she was making Parachutes. She said that it was a lovely material to work with and came with benefits. She said that the girls would scrounge the remnants and off cuts. Nothing was allowed to go to waste! She said that they would save them up and make their own underwear. She said that it was a real treat to be able to go out wearing a silk “undershirt” in place of some of the standard clothes available due to the war time restrictions.

 Evelyn also made parts for life jackets and small rubber Dinghies for the forces. This was very hard work. She said that it would make her fingers very saw and rough and also ache due to the effort of putting the materials through the sewing machine. It also would demand a lot of concentration. This was because, if you made a mistake you would have to leave the cotton in situe and not remove it due to it leaving pin holes. Not recommended in Dinghies!

Evelyn also worked for about 20 years as a cleaner in the now closed Peveril School in Aspley (previously William Crane School) until her retirement.

          The first photo was taken after WW2 and is of a street party in Radford. I believe it was printed in the Bygones of Nottingham Paper. Evelyn is standing  on the extreme left.

          The second photo is of Evelyn in later life at her home in Aspley, Nottingham. On a personal note, my own memory is of a lovely lady who was loved by her family and she had a wonderful sense of humour.

 Born      =  1919

Married =  1939

Child      =   Michael. (Plus 3 grand children).

Died       =   2005

This story was written using my notes obtained many years ago after conversations with Evelyn and my Dad Charles. Also updates by resent interviews with family.     


Photo: Illustrative image for the 'WW2 Sewing Machinist' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'WW2 Sewing Machinist' page
This page was added by John Pownall on 14/10/2015.
Comments about this page

A very interesting article, thanks for sharing, my mother was a lockstich machinist in 1939 and lived in Cinderhill. She may have worked with Evelyn, my mother was born in 1922 but sadly left the household in 1956. Her name was Edna May Brooks. 

By Alan Smith
On 02/06/2023

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