Mabel F Lethbridge (1900-1968)

Extract from “Fortune Grass”,London, Geoffrey Bles, 1934.

Photocopies from the book. Pp61-65; 74-77; 79-88; 177-184; 227-235

Middle class parents; her father served in regular army in Africa. Mother brought up the six children. Grandmother and Countess Sergardi, and lived in Italy.

Family moved to Ealing, London, during the war. Mabel became a nurse at 16. She went to work in the munitions factory at Hayes aged 17.

Work as a factory girl in World War 1. Volunteered to work in Danger Zone filling shells. Describes work, filling shells, and the “monkey” machine.

Major accident. Explosion. Only 2 survivors from her shed. Mabel has 13 serious wounds – face damaged, left leg amputated, right leg fractured, both arms fractured, bad burns on face, eyes, hands etc. TNT poisoning.


Was awarded OBE. Not entitled to a pension.


Later, goes to live with “Daddy”, an unemployed ex-officer.


They went busking as organ-grinders, she became Britain’s first chair-woman, letting chairs to theatre queens for 6d. Became Britain’s first Estate Agent.

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