Doing Their Bit: Brooklands Women in the Great War

01 February 2018

NEW exhibition explores the many varied and vital roles played by Women at Brooklands 6th February – 8th March 2018

Discover how the women of Brooklands 'did their bit' in World War One, in a new temporary exhibition at Brooklands Museum opening Tuesday 6th February.

Exploring war work through the individual experiences of five women, 'Doing Their Bit: Brooklands Women in the Great War' highlights a range of roles that women took on in World War One. Brooklands has always attracted people of great determination, many of whom made their mark on history, and Brooklands women were no different. In an innovative, dispersed exhibition, visitors will travel around the Museum to meet Hilda, Muriel, Gertrude, Ethel and Kathleen. From aircraft manufacture and supporting our Armed Forces to caring for the wounded, this exhibition tells the story of these women’s work in World War One.

Hilda Hewlett was the first woman to gain a British pilot’s licence, taking her test at Brooklands on 29th August 1911. During World War One, she ran her own aircraft manufacturing company with her partner Gustav Blondeau and set up a training school for women to teach them the skills they would need in the factory.

Muriel Thompson won the first Ladies’ Race at Brooklands in 1908. From 1915, she put her driving skills to use as an ambulance driver in France and Belgium for the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. She was awarded the Military Medal, Croix de Guerre and Ordre de Léopold II for her actions during the war.

Gertrude Harrison joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at the age of eighteen and moved from Lancashire down to Brooklands to serve on the Royal Flying Corps base. Transferring to the Women’s Royal Air Force when it was created in 1918, she continued in her role supporting the Royal Air Force until she was demobilised.

Ethel Locke King helped build Brooklands Race Course and led the opening parade around the track on 17th June 1907. By the time the war broke out in 1914, she had turned her attention to her work with the British Red Cross, setting up and running around 14 auxiliary hospitals in Surrey to cater for convalescing soldiers.

Kathleen Beldam joined Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) at Brooklands as a welder, building aircraft for the first war in which aerial combat would be important. She joined the Society of Women Welders, one of a number of trade unions that came into being to campaign for equal pay.

There will be an accompanying kids’ trail available from the shop. There is no charge for the trail.

Normal museum admission charges apply, there is no additional charge for the exhibition.

The exhibition and accompanying activity is part of the #WomensWork100 nationwide celebrations, as part of the First World War Centenary commemorations.