From curlers to warheads: Tributes paid to hairdresser-turned-Woman of Steel in Sheffield

An 'inspirational' Woman of Steel whose wartime work in Sheffield's munitions factories helped power the Allies to victory has died, aged 95.

Thursday, 22nd February 2018, 07:30 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd February 2018, 07:35 am
Audrey worked at munitions factories in Sheffield during the Second World War

Audrey Walton worked the lathes at Hadfields in Attercliffe and later at Newton Chambers in Chapeltown after being conscripted in 1941.

She often worked night shifts and was frequently forced to don her tin hat and dash to the air raid shelters as bombs fell - an experience she later described as 'terrifying' - but she conquered her fears to loyally serve her country.

Audrey beside the Women of Steel statue in Sheffield city centre

Audrey, who lived in Hoyland, Barnsley, was presented in 2016 with a Star-sponsored Women of Steel medal in recognition of her service.

She died peacefully at Barnsley General Hospital after a short illness earlier this month.

Her great nice Kate Oldfield said: "Aunty Audrey was a wonderful inspirational woman who always looked on the bright side. I feel lucky to have known her and she will always live on in all our hearts."

Audrey was born in Birdwell in 1922, the younger daughter of pit face worker Bruce and Rosemma Oldfield.

Audrey at Hadfields munitions factory during the war

After leaving Market Street School in Hoyland, she trained as a hairdresser, practising ladies hair curling techniques on her long-suffering brother.

Having just qualified when war broke out in 1939, she was told by her employer her services would no longer be needed, so she bought a bicycle and began a successful mobile hairdressing service.

She later opened a hair salon on Hoyland Road in the early 1960s, helped by her eldest daughter Lana, where cutting and setting hair was only part of Audrey's role.

"Mum said it was like being in a confessional for some customers," recalled Audrey's daughter Adele.

Audrey beside the Women of Steel statue in Sheffield city centre

"They would tell her all sorts of personal things they wouldn't normally reveal and it helped them to get them off their chest."

Audrey married Harold, a Royal Artillery gunner who served with distinction during the war in Italy and Africa and later worked as a welder, in 1942.

They had four daughters - Lana, Allyson, Kay and Adele - and delighted in throwing parties for family and friends at their home on Barber Street, in Hoyland.

Her granddaughter Amy Taylor said: "Gran was the linchpin of the family. The deep, heartfelt care she expressed for her family extended beyond her children and grandchildren, to the outer reaches of the family tree.

Audrey at Hadfields munitions factory during the war

"In return for her love, she expected regular phone calls: woe betide you if you forgot!

"Her increasing cantankerousness as she moved into her twilight years, although frustrating at times, was just another of her many endearing qualities. I will miss her more than I can say."

Audrey is survived by three daughters, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Her funeral will take place at Barnsley Crematorium on Monday, February 26, at 12.10pm.