The job of most men during World War 2 was that of a soldier.
As so many men were called up to serve, Britain depended on women to carry out much of the war work. Some jobs, however, were protected occupations meaning the men doing them were exempt from being called up to join the army.
During the Second World War it was considered essential that a male workforce was kept back from active military service to be employed in certain jobs. The following jobs were done by men during the war as they were protected occupations (important skilled jobs needed for the survival of the country):
- Merchant Seamen
- School teachers
- Railway and dock workers,
- Utility Workers - Water, Gas, Electricity
(The list above is also known as the reserved occupations in World War 2)
Some men were not fit enough or were too old to join the army so they volunteered as fire fighters (fire workers), ARP wardens or joined the Home Guard.
The duties of fire watchers were not to
‘watch fires’ but to look out for
incendiaries and extinguish them before a
fire could take hold. A law in September 1940 required factories and businesses to appoint
employees to watch for incendiary bombs outside of working hours.
Incendiary bombs were quite small. They
were dropped, hundreds at a time. On
impact they ignited and burned.
Fire Watchers were issued
with a bucket of sand, a bucket of water
and a stirrup pump.
Munitions workers worked in munitions factories. They made weapons (guns) and ammunition (bullets, hand grenades and bombs) needed by the armed forces. It was a very dangerous job and the hours were long.
Because of the risk of explosions, nobody was allowed to take anything into the workshops that could cause an explosion. This meant no matches, coins, hairpins, rings or anything metallic. Despite these precautions, accidents did sometimes happen and workers were killed or seriously injured in the explosions.
Women were called up for war work from March 1941.
For a list of jobs visit our Women in World War 2 page