Maidens' Trip, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In 1943 Emma Smith joined the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company under their wartime scheme of employing women to replace the boaters.

She set out with two friends on a big adventure: three eighteen-year-olds, freed from a middle-class background, precipitated into the boating fraternity.

They learn how to handle a pair of seventy-two foot-long canal boats, how to carry a cargo of steel north from London to Birmingham and coal from Coventry; how to splice ropes, bail out bilge water, keep the engine ticking over and steer through tunnels.

They live off kedgeree and fried bread and jam, adopt a kitten, lose their bicycles, laugh and quarrel and get progressively dirtier and tougher as the weeks go by. Maidens' Trip is a classic memoir of the growth to maturity of three young women in the exceptional circumstances of Britain at war.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Memoirs
  • ISBN: 9781408801253

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

This is just plain fun. The contrast between the girls working a boat for the war effort and the real canal families really came out. As well, of course of the lives of either and our recent canal holiday. What hit me was the constant pressure and the dirt. We have also never had to deal with the weather they saw - and if we had, we would have moored up, and not pressed on.My recommendation is: get on the canals in a comfortable modern leisure boat and sit up front out in the sun with this book.

Review by

A wartime adventure told by the author of her experiences of working on the canal boats. Emma as one of a select band of ladies who would be fondly known forever as the "Idle Women".