The Women’s Land Army

Country Weemins Warkin Wik

These ladies had to perform many different tasks during the war time Britain. Working in munitions, the forestry and in agriculture. We have a great deal to thank them for. A hotel in Kintore was their hostel and many local farms employed these hard working, technically savvy and organised individuals.

The Women’s Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organisation created during the First World War. With 6 million men away to fight Britain was struggling for labour. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as Land Girls.

As the prospect of the second world war became increasingly likely, the government wanted to increase the amount of food grown within Britain. In order to grow more food, more help was needed on the farms and so the government started the Women’s Land Army again in June 1939.At first the government asked for volunteers. This was supplemented by conscription so that by 1944 it had over 80,000 members. After two years men had virtually disappeared from the land into the services. So the role the Land Army played was vital for the war effort.The WLA lasted until its official disbandment on October 21, 1950.

The Women’s Land Army was made up of girls from every walk of life. Recruiting posters of smiling girls bathing in glorious sunshine and open fields covered the fact that the WLA often presented raw recruits (many from industrial towns) with gruelling hard work and monotony. The majority of the Land Army girls already lived in the countryside but around a third came from Britain’s industrial cities so for some working on the land was quite an ordeal. Homesickness was common as many of the girls had never been away from their parents for long periods. This was particularly true of girls that stayed in private billets. Billets were peoples homes, they volunteered to have land girls stay with them. The girls that stayed in local hostels often told a different story and were more settled as they were grouped together. There was a local hostel at Torry Burn hotel in Kintore and many were scattered all over Aberdeenshire.

There was a great sense of camaraderie amongst the girls who ultimately made life long friends. A lorry was usually available for taking the girls out to the farms. One of the girls usually drove the lorry. Some Land Girls were given a WLA bicycle to get to farms.

Women in the Land Army were issued with uniforms. They wore green jerseys, brown breeches, brown felt hats, dark green tie and a dark green woollen jumper. One pair of wellies, two overall coats in light khaki and one long dark green oilskin. They proudly wore a Women’s Land Army badge as part of their uniform,

They did a variety of jobs and a quarter were involved in milking and general farm work. Others cut down trees, worked in sawmills and over a thousand women were employed as rat-catchers. The land girls also helped to bring non agricultural land into cultivation. They performed all the skilled tasks involved in the hay the hairst the threshing, digging ditches and laying clay pipe drains ,all done by hand using a spade and pick. Planting and picking tatties, lambing sheep and calving cows were amongst the jobs the Land army Quines had to do in Aberdeenshire and all over Britain. At Christmas time poultry farms had to supply turkeys for the war effort so the Land Army girls had to kill, pluck and clean the turkeys. Those who fitted in well saw this period as one of the happiest times of their lives. During this time they learned many new skills and felt that they were contributing well to the war effort. Some Land Army girls had to control vermin and became rat, mole and rabbit catchers. They rode all around, on Land Army issue bicycles and strapped on the carrier was a ten inch tin painted red with one word on it ‘ARSENIC’.

They were paid one shilling 5 p per hour for a 48 hour week and paid twenty five shillings for their billet. Initially there was a kind of hostility by some farmers to employing the Land girls but they soon proved their worth as good reliable workers every bit as good as men and capable of turning their hand to almost every task.

Local establishments were set up to train the Land Army girls and at Craibstone on the outskirts of Aberdeen there was such a training centre. They were trained in milking and dairy work, cattle husbandry, working Clydesdale horses, basic early tractor handling, poultry, pig and sheep care.

For many after the Land Army was decommissioned in 1950 they went home to face the austere times of the depression with all its hardships.
In December 2007, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that the efforts of the surviving members of the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Timber Corps would be formally recognised with the presentation of a specially designed commemorative badge. The badge of honor was awarded in July 2008 to over 30,000 former Land Girls.