Inspecting an Avro Lancaster bomber was just one of the opportunities the Second World War offered to women. By 1943 there were more than 600,000 women volunteering their services for up 30 hours a week. The government duly realised the importance of female contributions to the war effort, and made it compulsory for able-bodied women of 18-45 to "do their bit" part time. Women's pay had risen by 80 per cent since 1938, reflecting their vital role on the Home Front.
Otherwise the year was dominated by the Allied invasion of France on 6 June. The presence of heavy German forces around the Pas de Calais indicated a mistaken attempt to second-guess the Allies' strategy, and with the momentum of the successful Normandy landings French tanks had rolled into Paris by August.
No doubt Allied troops were encouraged by the news, just two days before D-Day, that Rome had fallen. January's surprise landing at Anzio had caught the Germans napping, but British and American troops had their work cut out repulsing crack German troops on the way to the Italian capital. In the Far East, the Allied campaign in Burma scored a spectacular success early in the year when troops flown in by glider established a stockade with its own airstrip 200 miles behind Japanese lines. This daring tactic, taking the Japanese by surprise did away with the need for land supply lines.
1944 was also the year when Britain became vulnerable to high-tech German bombardment. All over the south east of England, civilians listened anxiously for the whine of the jet-propelled V-1. As long as it and its successor, the V-2, could be heard, people felt safe; when the engines cut out, the missile, packed with high explosive, plummeted to the ground.Reuse content