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Luftwaffe Bomber Pilot

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Womens' Land Army

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OUR COLLECTIONS


Carol Davis' Womens' Land Army Collection


Carol says: "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 along.

"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.

"All the 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 shyness.

"A large number of workers were required to assist with the reclamation of 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.

"I 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 possessions!"

 


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