Resident at Royal British Legion care home in Southam who helped Britain's Second World War effort celebrates her 101st birthday

Ethel Ferguson, who lives at Galanos House, remembers the days throughout the Second World War when she worked in a munitions factory from the age of 19 and she would have to take shelter during air raid warnings on a daily basis

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 3:04 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 3:06 pm
Ethel Ferguson, a former munitions factory worker, has celebrated her 101st birthday alongside the staff and residents of the Royal British Legion’s Galanos House in Southam.

A former wartime munitions factory worker has celebrated her 101st birthday at Galanos House in Southam.

Ethel Ferguson had a party with staff and fellow residents of the Royal British Legion’s purpose-built care home for the armed forces community and their families on Wednesday (July 21).

She was treated with cake, bubbly, decorations and phone calls and visits from family.

Born in Birmingham in 1920 to Daisy Wilcox and Edward Tallis, Ethel attended Cromwell Street Primary School before moving onto Charles Arthur Street Senior School, which she left in 1934 at the age of 14.

In 1939 when World War Two first broke out, Ethel wanted to join the Land Army, but was unsuccessful at joining. Instead, she went to work in the inspections department at John Wrights Munitions Factory in Birmingham, where she would inspect the ammunition bullets to ensure they were made correctly.

Ethel worked in the factory from the age of 19 up until the end of the war in 1945, leaving at the age of 25.

Recalling her time working at the factory, Ethel said: “I really enjoyed working there. We all wore the same overalls, and I made some good friends.

“At 10am and 3pm every day they would play music for us to work to, and I always used to sing along. We would start work at 8am, have 1 hour lunch and finish at 6:30pm.”

Ethel added: “But the air raid sirens would go off nearly every day, and we would have to down tools and head straight for the air raid shelter, which I never enjoyed!”

After the war ended, Ethel went on to work in Jane’s Clothes Shop in Yew Tree, Birmingham, as a Sales Assistant, which she enjoyed the most because she loves clothes and fashion. She later worked at a butchers and restaurant.

In the September of 1944, Ethel met Ken, a Paratrooper, whilst he was on leave from the Army, at a dance hall on Broad Street, Birmingham. Nine months later, on 2nd June 1945, they wed in Birmingham’s St Chads Cathedral.

Ethel has four children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren – one of which was born just a couple of weeks ago.

On her 100th birthday, Ethel was gifted a ‘book of your life’, by her grandson Andrew, which she loves as it gives her the opportunity to look back at her old photos.

She also received a birthday card from the queen, which she says, “she loved receiving” and “is really special”. Ethel still has the card to this day, which is on permanent display in her room.

When asked what the secret to living to see her 101st birthday is, Ethel says: “Trust people and love your family no matter what.”

Denise Goodwin, wellbeing manager of the Royal British Legion’s Galanos House, said: “We love to celebrate all our residents’ birthdays, which we do by throwing parties complete with balloons, decorations, and a homemade cake fresh from the kitchen.

“It's become a more important tradition over the last year, as residents have been unable to spend it with their families due to the Governments Covid guidance for care homes which have been put in place to keep residents safe.

“Being a part of our residents’ birthdays is a really special occasion for all the staff and relatives to get involved in, and we are really looking forward to helping Ethel celebrate such a big birthday this year.”