Elizabeth Topley, wartime steelworker

Elizabeth Topley
Elizabeth Topley
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Elizabeth Topley, who has died at 95, was one of Sheffield’s last remaining Women of Steel, the band of female workers who kept the city’s production lines turning when the men went to war.

Originally from Ireland, she had come to England in 1941, at 19, in search of a better life.

She threw herself into the war effort and worked in the steel mills for four years. In 1942, she met her husband-to-be, Herbert, in Rochdale and they married that year in Spinkhill, south of the city.

Herbert, from Mosborough, was an infantryman in the Sherwood Foresters’ regiment. He saw front line service in North Africa and Italy, and was wounded at the Battle of Anzio. He did not see Elizabeth again until 1945.

The oft-overlooked efforts of the factory women during the war was recognised with a statue in Sheffield’s Barker’s Pool, two years ago. At around the same time, Mrs Topley received a commemorative medal for her work.

Her son, Andrew, said she had been pleased when the realisation began to grow of how much the Women of Steel had done for the city. In 2010, she was invited to the Town Hall for a mayoral reception – which, he said, she felt was “about time”.

After the war, Mrs Topley worked in and around Mosborough and while living at Frecheville helped establish the new parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, in Hackenthorpe.