Women's Voices from the Wartime Farm
- Joan Mant
15th September 2012
What life was really like on a wartime farm.
The Women's Land Army was actually founded in 1917, but it was during the Second World War that it attracted the kind of attention which assured its place in the annals of the British war effort. The Services' demands on manpower created a gap which the alternative labour of female workers had to fill.
Joan Mant history draws upon the reminiscences of over 300 'land girls' (as they were affectionately known at the time), to tell the story of life on the wartime farm. Despite the prejudice against women undertaking heavy outdoor work, young women from all walks of life volunteered to serve their country on the land. It was a hard and demanding task involving none of the glamour that life in the armed services seemed to offer. Wages were at subsistence levels and in most cases living conditions were spartan. Those who had volunteered expecting a bucolic life of jolly hay-making were quickly pitch-forked into harsh reality. Eating raw potatoes, keeping clean by bathing in milk sterilisers and starting work at 4 am were common conditions, and accidents - sometimes fatal - added to the hazards endured.
But throughout these moving accounts of their lives runs a common thread of humour, camaraderie and pride. Land Girls is a fitting tribute to the WLA's heroic effort to keep food on the nation's table and establishes their well-earned place in the archives of war.