Kit with trainees

This page includes all the material we have come across in our research as we developed the stories we tell in Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways.

And we would love to add more so feel free to email us admin (at) with suggestions.


Idle Women Susan Woolfit

Maiden’s Trip Emma Smith

The Amateur Boatwomen Eily Gayford

Troubled Waters: Memoirs of a Canal Boatwoman Margaret Cornish

There are also references to the trainees in Ramlin Rose; the boatwoman’s story Sheila Stewart

And on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal…

Memories of a Wartime Canal Boatwoman Nancy Ridgeway (ed Mike Clarke and Timothy Peters)

Web accounts and blogs

Molly Traill’s report on NB Willow’s blog:

And an account of Molly Traills involvement with the trainees and boating by her grandson:

When Evelyn died her stepson, Tom Monnington, found her wartime diary among her posessions and donated it to Stoke Bruerne museum in 2008. I started writing Isobel’s War at about that time and I did wonder if Isobel’s daughter finding a diary in the attic was perhaps stretching a point, something of a theatrical device…

However, here is Evelyn’s as found in the attic!


There were a number of newpaper and magazine pieces in 2009 when the women’s work was formally recognised and there was a reunion at Stoke Bruerne.


An interview with Sonia Rolt 

Film and video

During the war there were several newsreel films made for the cinema about the trainees.

Beauty and the Barge (British Pathe) And definitely a period piece!

Another Job For Women (British Movietone) At least the narrator knows the women are on boats not barges.

‘Lady Bargees start work on the home front’ – still trying to find a link for this one…


Sonia Rolt

All the major papers and waterway press carried obituaries for Sonia Rolt after she died in November 2014. Rather than list them all I suggest you simply search ‘Sonia Rolt obituary’.

Olga Kevelos

I believe it was Olga who found herself left behind on the butty in Blisworth tunnel. However, she was clearly an intrepid sort as she went on to be a motorcyclist, winning a number of events. Her obituary contains many errors about the trainees – the source of the nickname for example, and I’m fairly sure that they received at least some paid leave.

There may be others…

Idle Women and Judies

Heather Wastie’s first piece about the trainees, commissioned by CRT in 2014, and based on their audio archive.