‘It will take great strength and friendship if the shipyard girls are to weather the storms to come.‘
– The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front
I am delighted to be joining Nancy Revell on tour with her latest novel The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front. Just published today with Arrow Publishing, The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front is the tenth instalment of the Sunday Times bestselling series and is inspired by Nancy Revell’s own close family ties to the Sunderland shipyards and her campaign to get the brave women who worked on the shipyards during WWII recognised for their history changing service.
I am delighted to bring you all an extract from the book today so I do hope you enjoy.
[ About the Book ]
As the war effort gathers steam in Europe, it’s all hands on deck on the home front.
Gloria is over the moon to be reunited with her sweetheart Jack. But her sons Bobby and Gordon are away with the Navy and still know nothing of their mother’s divorce and new half-sister.
Rosie’s squad of welders must work gruelling hours in the yard as they prepare for the Allied invasion of Normandy. All the while Rosie herself waits anxiously for news of her husband Peter, who is carrying out dangerous work as an undercover operative in France.
Meanwhile welder Dorothy has a feeling that her beau Toby is planning to pop the question when he’s next on leave. But it seems that her head is being turned by someone closer to home…
[ Extract ]
The Tatham Arms, Tatham Street, Sunderland,
Christmas Day 1943
‘I reckon this little girl’s ready for her bed,’ Helen said, nodding at Hope. The two-and-half-year-old was her half-sister, not that Helen saw the gorgeous, dark-haired girl curled up on her lap as a ‘half’ sibling – it didn’t matter to Helen one iota that they had different mothers.
‘Yes, yer right,’ Gloria agreed reluctantly, leaning across and pushing her daughter’s fringe away from her eyes, causing her to stir. ‘I’ve been putting it off.’
‘Because you’re having to go back to a cold, empty flat? On Christmas night?’ Helen ribbed as she hoisted Hope onto her hip; her little sister immediately clamped her hands around her neck and wrapped her legs around her waist.
‘Don’t rub it in,’ Gloria said, standing up and putting on her coat. She sighed. ‘I don’t know – I must be getting soft in my old age.’ She picked up her boxed-up gas mask and her handbag, swinging them over her shoulder.
‘Come on then, sleepyhead.’ Helen kissed Hope on the cheek. Gloria followed Helen through the throng of Christmas revellers, her daughter’s cherubic face watching her, chin resting on her big sister’s shoulder as she desperately tried to keep her eyes open. When they reached the hallway, Helen handed Hope over.
‘You don’t fancy coming back for a while?’ Gloria asked. She really did not want to go back to a cold, empty flat. The cold she could tolerate, but not the emptiness. Or rather, the absence of the one person she wanted to be there more than anyone in the world: Jack Crawford. Hope’s father. The man she had loved for as long as she could remember. The man she’d been forced to live apart from these past two years.
‘Yer could have a hot chocolate ’n tell me what really happened today? Yer won’t have to worry about anyone eavesdropping,’ Gloria said. It had been obvious something had happened when Helen had turned up earlier with Pearl Hardwick and her daughter Bel Elliot.
‘I think I’ll stay here for a bit longer,’ Helen said, tipping her head towards the lounge door of the pub, where there was life and laughter and plenty of festive cheer. ‘I’ll come around tomorrow and tell you everything, OK?’
Gloria forced a smile. ‘I look forward to it.’ Pulling open the front door, Gloria stepped out into
Tatham Street. It was quiet, and the virgin snow meant there was no need for her little electric torch. As she started the short walk back to her flat, it felt as though her mood was getting heavier with each step. Yer should be happy, she berated herself. It had been a lovely Christmas, spent with those she was close to – and with a slap-up dinner at Vera’s, in spite of rationing. Then they had all walked to the Tatham Arms and continued the festive celebrations, stepping out and listening to the carol singers when the Salvation Army band had turned up. She’d even had the bonus of getting a Christmas card from her boys, Bobby and Gordon, both serving in the Royal Navy.
Gloria thought of Rosie with her husband behind enemy lines, Hannah, a Jewish refugee from Prague with parents in a German concentration camp, and Polly, who’d just had a baby with a man who was spending the war yanking limpet mines off the hulls of Allied ships.
If they could all keep their spirits up and a smile on their faces, then so could she.
Gloria looked down at Hope. At least Jack was just over the border and safe – or as safe as could be these days, working in an industry that was one of Herr Hitler’s prime targets.
But, Gloria thought as she trudged towards the end of Tatham Street, it didn’t matter how much she argued with herself, she still couldn’t stop feeling totally despondent about ever seeing her lover again, never mind Hope ever having a father in her life.
Reaching the T-junction at the top of the street, Gloria turned left into Borough Road. Crossing over, she kept her eyes on the ground, not wanting to slip and fall with Hope in her arms. The snow on this stretch of road leading into town had been churned up by traffic, making it a mix of slush and ice.
Reaching the pavement on the other side, which, thanks to the lack of footfall, was still carpeted in a thick white layer of snow and unspoilt, Gloria’s attention was caught by the outline of a figure standing outside the entrance to her flat. A dark, man’s figure. He had his back to her. A duffel bag was slung over his shoulder.
Gloria slowed her pace. As though sensing her approach, the man turned round, causing Gloria to stop dead in her tracks. It couldn’t be? Could it? Was her mind playing tricks on her? Did she want this so much her mind had fabricated it?
‘Gloria!’ Jack’s voice sounded out loud and clear as he dumped his bag in the snow and strode towards her. ‘Hope!’ The joy in his voice was undisguised. Gloria stood immobile, unable to speak as the man she loved reached them and wrapped his arms around them.
Purchase Link ~ The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front
[ Bio ]
Nancy Revell is the pen name of writer and journalist Amanda Revell Walton, who has worked for the national press for the past 25 years, providing them with hard-hitting news stories and in-depth features. She has also worked for just about every woman’s magazine, writing amazing and inspirational true life stories.
Nancy Revell is spearheading a campaign to honour the real women of the Sunderland shipyards in her home town with a new public statue that will be displayed within the historic Sunderland Shipyards. Nancy has worked closely with the Sunderland City Council and the Sunderland Soroptimists, a worldwide volunteer service organization for women, and after putting out a call on her own social media channels, Nancy was approached by local artist Rosanne Robertson who has been commissioned to create the statue that will be unveiled later this year.
Sunderland boasted the largest shipyard in Europe during WWII, and produced a quarter of Britain’s merchant shipping at the time. When the men went away to war, the courageous Shipyard Girls took up the back breaking work building ships for the British Navy. Due to its size, the Sunderland Shipyards were a key target of Hitler’s Blitzkreig, making the work not only backbreaking but incredibly dangerous. Historians have estimated that without the courageous women working in Sunderlands’ shipyards during the war, WWII could very likely have been lost due to lack of ability to transport troops, provisions and ammunition.
Twitter ~ @arevellwalton