During the period from 1941 -1945 the Royal Ordnance Factory 59 (ROF59) in Newton Aycliffe employed 17,000 people to make munitions to support the war effort, these were mostly women and they became known as the Aycliffe Angels.
The name was coined by Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) during one of his propaganda broadcasts on pirate radio; he claimed that ‘the little angels of Aycliffe will never get away with it’ and made a promise that the Luftwaffe would bomb them into submission. Mentioning the Angels on his broadcast just highlighted how important their work was and how concerned the Nazis were about their contribution to the war. Thankfully the threats were never carried out and none of the infiltration attempts from Nazi spies succeeded.
Despite knowing the history of the factory and what the workers did we do not know a great deal about these ‘Angels’. The factory was kept highly secure and secretive because of the importance of the work being carried out there, jeopardising the secrecy of the factory could have had huge implications on the war. What information we do have is sourced from anecdotal accounts of workers who told stories of their days of working at ROF59 to their families; these stories have then been retold and passed down through the generations.
We know that the work was highly dangerous and the factory had a number of accidents, one of which killed 8 women. There was a high level of camaraderie between the workers due to the intense environment in which they were working, friendships made here lasted a lifetime and some of the workers even met their future husbands through friendships forged at ROF59! The workers never knew what time they would get back to their families at the end of their shift; this was because the time of the train home was changed each day to ensure that the workers were safe from their train being bombed by the Luftwaffe.
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