On Canal Boats in Wartime

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Spring 2022

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones studies a 1945 article written by Cecily M. Ramsay, one of the well-known women trainees about life on the cut.

Much has been written about the women trainees who worked cargo-carrying boats during World War II, including several books authored by some of them. One of the first to commit her experiences to print was Miss Cecily M. Ramsay and this was published in the June 1945 edition of the Geographical Magazine.Background Cecily was a New Zealander and proudly noted she was also a graduate of Otago University in Dunedin. She appears to have engaged on a personal voyage of discovery by travelling the world. At some point she made her way to Britain and was trained to work narrowboats by Kit Gayford. She spent about two years of the war running a motor and butty pair before leaving around March 1945. With her training, acquired knowledge and personal experience fresh in mind, her article ‘On Canal Boats in War Time’ was published just weeks after the end of hostilities in Europe. One important aspect of her piece was that boats and boating were examined through the lens of commerci…

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