Video: Medals are made for brave Women Of Steel

THEY deserved a medal a lifetime ago and here it is at last - to finally honour Sheffield's brave wartime Women Of Steel.

Women of Steel medals being made at Sheffield Assay office in Hillsborough. Assistant production manager Danny Smith presses the first medal. Picture Scott Merrylees

The girls who kept the munitions factories going to help win two world wars were forgotten for decades.

But not any more.

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A public appeal has raised around £170,000 to fund a statue - depicting two of the women in boiler suits, linking arms - which will be unveiled in Barkers Pool, on Friday, June 17.

Women of Steel medals being made at Sheffield Assay office in Hillsborough. Assistant production manager Danny Smith presses the first medal. Picture Scott Merrylees

It's going up outside the still blitz marked Sheffield City Hall, where the ladies had tea dances during WWII,

After smashing an initial fundraising target, adding an extra £20,000, medals have also been made to hand out to any surviving Women Of Steel, now in their 90s, or their families.

Hundreds will be given out, on the day the statue is unveiled, with round 90 of the ladies still going strong, all wanting to be there.

One side of the special silver plated copper medal has an image of the two women, based on the top half of the statue designed by Martin Jennings.

Women of Steel medals being made at Sheffield Assay office in Hillsborough. Assistant production manager Danny Smith presses the first medal. Picture Scott Merrylees

The other side, in honour of these courageous Yorkshire girls who dodged bullets and bombs in the fight for freedom, is simply engraved: “With thanks to our wartime Women of Steel from the people of Sheffield”.

It is envisaged around 500 will be given out and the search is now on to find all the women who worked in the city's steel works, during both world wars.

There has already been applications for more than 300, with application forms available from at Sheffield Town Hall and online at www.sheffield.gov.uk/womenofsteel.

The medal itself is being produced at Sheffield Assay Office, which donated all the metal for the medals, with the support of Assay Master and Chief Executive Ashley Carson.

"We're really excited to be involved and producing the medals, so well deserved," he said, at the Assay Office in Beulah Road, Hillsborough.

"I first heard about the Women Of Steel when I attended fundraising concerts some 18 months ago. It's just something the Assay Office - with its own historical heritage - wanted to be involved with.

"We are here by act of parliament to hallmark gold, silver, platinum and palladium items. So this is very different for us to also be producing something. We've been using our press."

Stamping the blanks and turning out the medals on the press by hand, is Sheffield man Danny Smith, aged 38, Deputy Production Manager.

He explained how two special dies, one featuring the image on the front of the medal and the other with the words on the reverse, are fitted in position,

He said: "I press the run button, there are two strikes at about 60 tons and we finish up with the medals."

They will be presented in a crimson and silver presentation box, provided at cost by M M Bell & Sons, of Sheffield.

A number of commemorative medals will be produced in 925 Sterling Silver with a blank face value of £100 per coin.

Women Of Steel Kathleen Roberts, 94, and Kit Sollitt, 96, who recently made a six hour round trip to see the statue being cast in bronze at the Pangolin Editions foundry, near Stroud in Gloucestershire,have been figureheads during the campaign along with with Ruby Gascoigne and Dorothy Slingsby, who will play a role in unveiling the statue.

Kathleen, 94, said: "This is fantastic. I can't wait to see the medal and the finished statue. After all this they won't forget us now."

The medals and statue follow a public appeal by Sheffield City Council on the back of a campaign by our sister paper The Star in Sheffield.

A series of concerts - featuring the likes of Tony Christine, ABC, Heaven 17 and John Parr - sparked community fundraising, from coffee mornings to runs.

Julie Dore, Sheffield City Council leader, said: “I’m so pleased that we are able to honour our inspirational Women of Steel in this way."

John Palmer, a key fundraiser added: “When we knew there would be extra money, we decided that we should give the women something personal."