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MICRO-HISTORIES

The Bomb Girls

During World War II, a secret weapons factory in Scarborough employed mainly women.


Source: Toronto Star Photograph Archive, Courtesy of Toronto Public Library. 

 

Did you know that from 1942 to 1945, a plant located in what was then rural Scarborough, employed mainly women and secretly produced the largest quantity of munitions (military weapons, ammunition, equipment, and stores) during World War II?

Uniformed dressed women pose on a rocket launcher
Source: Toronto Star Photograph Archive
Courtesy of Toronto Public Library

Sitting on 346 acres of land expropriated by King George, the fuze-filling plant secretly referred to as, “Project-24” was operated by Toronto company GECO (General Engineering Company). The plant consisted of 172 buildings, including a bank and daycare facilities and was located south of Eglinton Rd. between Warden Ave. & Sinnott Rd.

A woman in white uniform with the Geco logo poses with a rocket bomb
Source: Toronto Star Photograph Archive
Courtesy of Toronto Public Library

As the war overseas intensified and more men were enlisted in the military, the Canadian government recruited women to help out in the war effort back home. Factory roles that were traditionally considered men’s work, now needed to be taken on by women. In order for a chance at victory, an endless amount of ammunition needed to be supplied.

Women from the ages of 17 to 70, which included newcomers from countries like Nigeria, Greece, China, and Syria worked tirelessly and around the clock to keep up with the demand for ammunition. They would work on heavy machinery, handle gunpowder and explosives, including pouring TNT into shells. The plant itself would operate 24-hours a day, 6 days a week, and during its lifetime saw more than 256 million munitions filled.

“In a 2015 interview, ‘Bomb Girls’ author Barbara Dickson told the Beach Mirror, “These women played a key role in helping to win the war, and they’re truly unsung heroes. It is important to let our country know about these people and their contributions, and why we enjoy the freedom we have today in Canada.”

After the war ended, the GECO facility was able to find another use. Rather than razing the 172 buildings, the Canadian Government turned them over to the City. Many buildings became postwar emergency housing, accommodating upwards of 6,000 residents. The facility would become a catalyst to the development of Scarborough, with many people, including factory workers, settling in that area.

 

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