Braunston Turn: The Diary of Evelyn Hunt



The diary begins at Braunstone Turn, after the boats had unloaded supplies in Birmingham post Christmas and were on their way to load coal north of Coventry, and continues until October 1943 documenting the day to day lives of Evelyn, Audrey and Annie as they worked Sun and Dippper together as Idle Women.  

Evelyn had trained as an artist at the Royal College of Art and was working at the Camouflage Department of the War Ministry when she read an advertisement in The Times placed on behalf of the Department of War Transport calling for women volunteers to become boatmen for a minimum weekly wage of £3.  It noted only women of robust constitution and good health should enter this employment!  The women were issued with a National Service badge form the Inland Waterways inscribed with the letters IW sitting on waves. This led to the nickname Idle Women.  The  young women who had volunteered to replace canal boatmen who had gone off to war  were proud to use the term Idle Women.  After a few weeks training the women found themselves operating a powered motorboat towing an unpowered butty.  Each pair of boats carried up to 50 tons of essential supplies along the canals.

Evelyn’s  diary includes descriptions of the changing landscape, friendships made along the way and the longs working hours and daily routines the girls established as they lived and worked together as boatmen.







  1. This is such a great story, and whilst I’m fully aware of organisations like the WWII land girls, it never crossed my mind that there was a similar scheme for the country’s waterways during wartime. I love the name Idle Women – it would be interesting to know if the £3 wage was same as the men were paid, I’m assuming it wasn’t!


  2. I uncovered a whole range of stories and books written about the ‘Idle Women’ – really interesting and definitely unknown to me too. I’m not sure about the wages for men – I’ll see what I can find out!


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