Sheffield Woman of Steel dies aged 93

Mick and Mary Coward.
Mick and Mary Coward.

One of the Women of Steel - who braved the Blitz to make sure Sheffield's steelworks powered the Allies to victory - has died aged 93.

Mary Coward witnessed first hand the horrors of war during her time making components for Spitfires at the Thompson Engineering factory in Townhead Street, city centre.

Mary Coward during the war years.

Mary Coward during the war years.

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She was one of thousands of women who went to work in the factories to keep the war effort going while the men were out fighting in battle.

Mary started doing 12-hour shifts aged just 15 in 1940 and remained there until the end of the Second World War in 1945.

She bore witness to the sheer destruction caused by the Blitz of Sheffield in December 1940 which left more than 660 people dead.

However, such was the wartime spirit at the time she refused to let this stop her from going to work to help with the war effort.

Women Of Steel at work in the munitions factory - helping to win the fight for freedom.

Women Of Steel at work in the munitions factory - helping to win the fight for freedom.

Her son Anthony, aged 68, of Richmond, said: "She walked to work from her home in Nodder Road, Woodthorpe, and witnessed the devastation of the raid, scrambling over rubble in Fitzalan Square, as bodies were being recovered from the Marples Hotel, which took a direct hit."

Indeed the Coward family as a whole played a vital part in the war effort.

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Mary's dad Walter worked down the coal mine and her husband Mick served on HMS Rodney, which played a major role in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941.

Anthony said: "With her father supplying the fuel, Mary manufacturing the weapons and Mick pulling the trigger, how could we fail to defeat Hitler and the Nazis."

The Women of Steel statue is unveiled.

The Women of Steel statue is unveiled.

After the war she worked in a supermarket for about 30 years.

Mary was a supporter of The Star backed campaign to raise money for a Women of Steel statue in the city and was at its unveiling in Barker's Pool in 2016.

Anthony said: "In her own words she said it was 'about time'. She was very proud of her role in the war years. They were all scared but they just had to get on with it."

He added: "She always loved a laugh and having her family around her."

Mary Coward at the Women of Steel statue unveiling.

Mary Coward at the Women of Steel statue unveiling.

She died after suffering a stroke at Beechy Knoll Care Home in Richmond on April 12.

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Mary had two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The funeral will take place at St Theresa's Church in Prince of Wales Road on Friday, May 4, at 10.30am followed by cremation.