Women, the Bank of England, and the Second World War

Learn about women clerks in the Bank of England in the Second World War
Published on 28 March 2024


Shona Stewart, Museum Education Officer 

A member of Bank staff operating the counter where silver was exchanged for £1 notes, 1942. Bank of England Archive: 15A13/1/1/8/18.

A Bank of England staff member gets involved with rural life in Hampshire by tending to goats, 1942. Bank of England Archive 15A13/15/90.

More than 200 women from the Chief Accountant’s Office were evacuated to Whitchurch and Overton in Hampshire during the war, and as their work was integrated at the lower levels, they worked side by side with men but lived in separate camps. I interviewed a number of these women some years ago and many had fond memories of their time in the countryside, particularly of fun times they had at dances hosted by American GIs posted at a camp nearby.

Some of the women who remained in London volunteered as Air Raid Wardens, and patrolled the roof of the Bank on a rota basis. I love the photo of them in their uniform from 1942.

Women fireguards on the roof of the Bank of England, 1942. Bank of England Archive: 15A13/1/4/27.

At this time, it would have been unexpected to see women carrying out a role traditionally carried out by men. They were particularly brave given that, just the year before, 56 people died during a bombing of Bank Station. This must have been fresh on their minds. Speaking to a couple of them, I was struck by how, on spotting V2 bombers overhead, they remembered telling colleagues to hide under desks. 

By the end of the war, the range of work for women had expanded, with new working procedures introduced by mechanisation and an increase in the number of tasks available to women in certain areas such as the Accountant’s Department. Whilst going out to work provided women with a certain amount of independence it would be a slow process towards equality of opportunity and a single pay scheme would not happen in the Bank for another decade. 

  1. E31/1 Estimated number of Women Clerks on the Staff 1893 -1943, 2 November 1943

  2. M5/533 – 9 Volume 7, Retention of Married Women Clerks, 1575

  3. Elizabeth Hennessy ‘Establishment Department’, A Domestic History of the Bank of England 1930-1960, (Cambridge 1992) 331. 332