During the First World War, Barrow saw its highest ever population and thousands of women were recruited to work at Vickers Shipyard and Engineering works.

Now known as BAE, the Barrow shipyard produced 6.8m shells and 8.7 million forgings and partly completed shells.

On a morale-boosting tour in 1917, King George V and Queen Mary paid a visit the factory with Her Majesty paying particular attention to the women munitions workers.

Read more: Pictures from King George V and Queen Mary's visit to Barrow

This was captured in an image taken by local photographers The Sankeys who documented life in and around Barrow at that time.

According to the Yorkshire Post: "The Queen’s unceasing interest in the welfare of women workers was demonstrated several times. 

"Her Majesty was told, and saw for herself, that the greatest care is taken to preserve the health of the girls and women employed in certain departments of the works.

"Indeed, their healthiness was apparent, and risk of being gallant one may add that Lancashire has no reason to fear that its ‘lasses’ can be excelled in point of grace, and beauty and feature if the girls at Vickers’ are true representatives."

(Image: Sankey online archive) Working conditions weren't quite as rosy as this however and the Sankeys captured the female employees in their day-to-day roles with their male supervisors.

They're often captured at tables weighing, inspecting and making shells and at times, filling them with steaming liquid from a large urn.

According to Barrow's Dock museum, eighteen-year-old Alice Wycherley, who came from Manchester to work in the shipyard, said: "In Vickers, it was at times like some medieval vision of hell, with the dull lights bestowing a blue cast over the blue skin.

"But worse, much worse, was the continual shortage of money. I had a good enough job on the gauge bench but it was not bringing in enough to keep me.

"By going on in alternative shifts I was able to pick up £1.12s.6d. which was certainly better. However, the hours seemed longer. Night shift lasted from 5pm until 7.30 the next morning."

(Image: Sankey online archive) The recognition of the essential role women played in the First World War saw the workers leverage the fact that if their work was equal to a man’s, their pay must be also.

Government archives show that in 1916 an arbitration session was held over a dispute between the Vickers shell factory and women represented by the National Federation of Women Workers.

The women did ‘men’s work however their male counterparts receiving 26 shillings per week whilst they were paid 18-20s.

The arbitrator did not uphold the women’s complaint with Vickers’ arguing that women’s wages were in line with circular L.2 - the famous promise of equal pay.

‘Male’ jobs were often ‘diluted' to avoid being labelled as 'equal work' to get around this promise.

(Image: Sankey online archive) Although this particular effort at Vickers proved to be fruitless, it paved the way for smaller victories over time for women worker's in munition factories. 

Women recognised that the working conditions imposed in the First World War meant arbitration was one of the few ways they could reasonably achieve a wage increase.

Women at Vickers' Birmingham site gained a sizeable increase later that year and managed to up their rate from 6/3d (seven shillings three pence) per hundred cases to 7/3d.

Female workers, both unionised and unaffiliated, began to become aware of the opportunities collective bargaining had due to the government control of industry in the First World War and were willing to utilise them.

Many women went on to become tram drivers and teachers after Vickers.