ROF Newport, filing bench, 1940s

War Work advertisement, 1940s

ROF Newport, Ruby Loftus screwing a breech ring, 1941/42

South Wales Argus headline, April 1943
Wartime Newport:
The Home Front

A Gun Girl

"While women can't be firing the guns, we're putting everything we've got into making them!"
Night Shift script by Arthur Calder-Marshall, 1941

Ruby Loftus was one of thousands of women who volunteered or were conscripted to work in armaments and munitions factories across Britain.

During the Depression of the 1930s, the Loftus family - like many others - left South Wales to look for work in London. After war began, they returned to Newport late in 1940.

She began work in the new Number 11 Royal Ordnance Factory in Newport when she was 19. Before the war she had been a shop assistant but after training at the Factory, she became an outstanding lathe operator.

Ruby was one of a handful of women who performed precision engineering operations which had previously only been carried out by highly skilled craftsmen.

She became widely recognized after she was chosen by Dame Laura Knight as the subject of a painting which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1943 and voted Picture of the Year.

"In days gone by it was considered that this work could only be carried out successfully by skilled labour; but now, with the introduction of necessary tools, jigs and fixtures, it was possible to produce material with intelligent woman labour."
South Wales Argus newspaper, November 1940

Many of these photographs appear in the book Wartime Newport: the Gun Factory (ISBN 0-9519136-0-3) which was published by Newport Museum and Art Gallery in 2006.

Copyright: Newport Museum & Art Gallery Newport South Wales NP20 1PA


Ruby Loftus