"Both my Mum Peggy and my Auntie Nancy were in the Women’s Land
Army. Mum worked on various farms around Ipswich, and my Aunt helped
reclaim the Lakenheath Fens.
"Although the advertising posters spoke
of a “healthy life in the country”, the girls worked long hours for
little money and all the jobs were labour intensive. Most of the
girls came from industrial towns in the North. I remember Mum saying
she had never even seen a cow before..... let alone milked one!
"Mum shared a dormitory at Hope House Hostel with 4 other girls from
Yorkshire: Mary, Anne, Clarice and Sheila. She and Clarice became
firm friends. Clarice is still alive today, but Mum sadly died
in May 2011.
"On the first day the girls were each given an old bicycle which
they had to use to travel from one farm to another. Mum had never
ridden a bicycle before and it took a lot of encouragement from the
other girls to try and teach her to ride. Poor Mum wobbled all over
the place, much to the amusement of the others and, even though they
allowed Mum to set off 20 minutes before everybody else, the girls
still passed her along the way, waving and shouting encouragement as
they did so.
"The jobs were many and varied: thistle bodging, stone picking, hay
making, stacking corn, building hay and wheat ricks, milking, rat
trapping, loading the carts and leading the horses for ploughing.
Spud planting and picking was a hated job, especially in the rain.
The girls often had to struggle to pull their feet out of the mud,
sometimes leaving their wellies behind, dragging their buckets
"Harvesting was also hard work, especially in the days before
combine harvesters. The corn was cut and harvested and the girls
followed on, picking up the sheaves and stacking them. If it rained,
they had to turn them in the hope that they would dry out. The whole
lot then had to be pitched onto the carts, a skilled job because if
it wasn’t right, then the whole lot would topple over.
"Another hated job was beet pulling, especially on cold frosty days
when the fork wouldn’t go into the ground. The girls had to try and
pull them up with their frozen hands. If it rained, the girls had to
do muck spreading or clean out the cowsheds and pigsties.
jobs were back breaking, and in the evenings the girls looked forward to
a soak in the bath. In spite of having 3 brothers, Mum was quite
shy. The other girls would bathe in pairs and chat about the events
of the day, but Mum insisted on bathing alone. In order to cure her,
Clarice deliberately left the door to the ablution block wide open
one day so that everybody who passed could see Mum in the bath!
After that she joined in with the other girls and forgot her
"A large number of workers were required to assist with the
Lakenheath Fen, which had become largely derelict and
subject to flooding during the pre-war depression era, to bring it
back into arable crop cultivation to help the war effort. Some 2,100
acres of the Fen was taken over by the West Suffolk War Agricultural
Executive Committee under Defence Regulations. Auntie Nancy was one
of the workers in question. It soon became apparent that she was
adept at driving a tractor so that is how she spent many of her
days. However, she also had to undertake some of the other back
breaking tasks mentioned above.
"Obviously, the girls did have some free time and this was often
spent attending local dances, whist drives, the cinema or just
listening to the radio. My Auntie Nancy and her friends regularly
attended a Saturday night dance held in the local Aircraft Hanger.
On one particular evening, they turned up expecting to see the usual
band only to find that the entertainment that evening was provided
by the famous Glenn Miller and his Orchestra! Apparently, he was
staying in London at the time and agreed to perform at the village
dance as a treat for the Servicemen and Women.
"Even before my Mum died in May 2011, I felt that I should do something to ensure that
her's and her friends' efforts during the war years to keep the country supplied with
fresh produce are never forgotten. Therefore, I decided to re-enact
as a Land Girl and gather together a Display highlighting the varied
jobs that the girls had to undertake, including some of the tools
they would have used. I also have a photo board showing pictures of
Mum, Auntie Nancy and their friends. The uniforms for the 2 dolls
you can see in the photo below were made by Clarice’s sister, Dorothy, a
Veteran Land Girl who still attends many events, particularly in and
around the Pickering area. After the death of her husband, Dorothy
and her Land Army friends made a point of contacting as many former
Land Girls in the Yorkshire Region as possible. At their request,
she hand-made an outfit for numerous different dolls they supplied
and I am the proud owner of just 2 of these dolls, Nancy and Peggy.
As her eyesight began to fail, Dorothy started buying Teddies from
Charity Shops, washing them and knitting them a Land Army jumper.
These were then sold to raise funds for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Again I am the proud owner of one of these Teddies whom I have named
Dotty. Alas, Dorothy’s eyesight has deteriorated even further in the
last couple of years so she is no longer able to make such outfits.
joined the Northern Forties Re-enactment Group in 2008 and started
putting together my display later that year. As you can imagine, I
am still adding to it. Two other girls in the group also re-enact as
Land Girls and are adding to the display, Adela and Kathryn. All of
us can be seen in the photo opposite at the event in Jacksdale in 2010
- I am the one in the middle. Other members in our group now
do Land Army too, including Ann-marie and Shannon.
"The work of the Land Girls was finally recognised by the British
Government in 2008 when a commemorative badge was produced and
presented to all Veteran Land Girls together with a Certificate of
thanks signed by Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister. I have
Mum’s Badge and, as you can imagine, it is one of my most treasured