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Women & War Exhibition at Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum

WAAF Pilots cyjrwe

This exhibition looks at Women and War through the lens of the county, and explores the diverse experiences of women who have been involved with all aspects of military life, from the ‘fringes’ of history to those now taking on front line roles in the armed forces today.

Using unique, personal stories, it also tells the story of how women’s role in the armed forces itself has changed and evolved.

With thousands of men away serving in the armed forces, British women took on a variety of jobs during the Second World War. They also played a vital role on the home front, running households and fighting a daily battle of rationing, recycling, reusing, and cultivating food in allotments and gardens; ‘digging for victory’.

From 1941, women were called up for war work, in roles such as mechanics, engineers, munitions workers, air raid wardens, bus and Fire engine drivers. Away from these vital roles more than 80,000 women joined the Women’s Land Army, enduring tough conditions and long hours in isolated rural outposts in order to prevent Britain from being ‘starved out’. The women who worked on farms were known as ‘Land Girls’. They were given a uniform and had to live on the farms where they were sent to work.

In the Special Operations Executive (SOE) Churchill recruited around 60 women “to set Europe ablaze”. They were deployed behind enemy lines, usually by parachute or fishing boats, to help form a ‘secret army’ of resistance fighters preparing the way for the Allied invasion.

Women continued to play a vital role after the war and over the last two decades, women have taken on more jobs in the British Army. Since 2018, all Army roles have been open to them. This includes combat roles in the infantry and special forces units.

But even before that, many female soldiers had been serving on the front line and in war zones across the world. Away from the front line, women have taken on positions and broken down the barriers in what were once male-dominated roles in MI5 & MI6; the UK’s Security Service and Secret Service.

Women & War: From the Fringes to the Front Line opens 3 June - 10 September 2023

Open Tuesdays - Saturdays, 11am - 5pm, and Sundays 2pm - 5pm.


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