Sunday, 13 January 2013

How my Grandmother risked her life in the dockyards during World War Two

A few years ago my Mum told me about her mother, Petrina McAndrew, and her wartime work. Petrina was born in 1911 and when war was declared, she was living close to Rosyth dockyard, across the river from Edinburgh. The dockyard was quickly brought up to full strength and Petrina, along with many other local women, began work as a riveter alongside the male workers. She was taught to pass red hot rivets to the male welders who were repairing war damaged ships. Rosyth dockyard and the Forth Bridge were considered prime German targets, so when war broke out, the government ordered children from the surrounding community to be evacuated. Less than half of the children were evacuated at that time, and Petrina was one of those mothers who refused to send her children – Margaret aged five and Jean aged three – away. A visit to Rosyth by Winston Churchill in 1940 underlined Rosyth's importance to the war effort.

Each day was fraught with danger, and Petrina's journey to work was dangerous too, as she travelled there early in the morning along unlit, icy roads. Initially there was hostility from some of her male colleagues, but once they saw that Petrina could pull her weight, things became more tolerable and she made some good friends. She was frequently subject to pranks from her friends in the dockyard and also from the crews of the ships and submarines that docked there. Further bombings took place around Rosyth in 1940 and at that point,

Petrina sent her two girls to stay with her sisters in Wolverhampton, believing it to be less of a target. But that is another story! Sadly Petrina died at the age of 48 in a moped accident when I was only two years old. Just the week before she died, she had sent me a lovely little coat to wear. I am keen to keep her memory alive as I am immensely proud of the arduous and difficult work that she undertook during the war. 

I recently discovered this photograph of my Grandmother, Petrina, with my Mum, Jean. It is so lovely I thought I would add it to this blog post.

NOTE You can view my books on Wartime Britain here:



  1. Lovely wee memory...and I'm just nit picking but Rosyth is on the opposite side of the Forth from Edinburgh....The Germans used to try and bomb the Forth rail Bridge but from the air it was so narrow a target they could never manage...and a lovely picture at the end of your blog!