Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Sheffield's World War II Women of Steel are thanked

Women of Steel at Downing Street
The prime minister thanked the women for their "sterling service"

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has paid tribute to hundreds of female workers who toiled in the steel factories of South Yorkshire during World War II.

The workers, known as the Women of Steel, produced metal which was essential for the war effort.

Among them were Ruby Gascoigne, 87, Dorothy Slingsby and Kathleen Roberts, both 88, and Kit Sollitt, 90, who were honoured on a visit to Downing Street.

They travelled from Sheffield on a train named the Women of Steel Express.

The engine was specially renamed in honour of the occasion and was unveiled by the four steel mill veterans before their journey on Wednesday.

The women received a special letter of thanks from veterans minister Kevan Jones and met Sheffield MPs at the House of Commons before visiting 10 Downing Street.

Buffer girls at mobile canteen, World War II in 1940
Women provided essential labour during World War II

Mr Brown said: "I am delighted to welcome some of Sheffield's Women of Steel to No 10 today and to have the chance to thank some of these incredible women in person for their sterling service during World War II.

"Their striking stories show the crucial role they played in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions."

After the visit, Ms Roberts told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that it had been a "wonderful" day.

"It's been really marvellous", she said.

The women worked to create metal which was used for guns, tanks and planes during the war.

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