Please see below a timeline of the main developments for the Women’s Land Army during World War One.

January 1917

  • The British Board of Agriculture established a Women’s Branch under its Director, Meriel Talbot. Its aim was: “increasing the supply of women workers on the land and of securing their efficiency and employment”
  • Dame Meriel Talbot formed the Women’s Land Army on behalf of the British government.
  • The first women ‘Board of Agriculture’ inspectors were appointed.
  • Paid women officers were appointed in each county of England and Wales

March 1917

  • A national appeal was made for young women to enrol in a new Women’s Land Army – a civilian organisation staffed and run by women – as part of the National Service Scheme.
  • Village Registrars were enlisted by county Women’s War Agricultural Committees to act as village representatives. Their role was to keep registers of local women farm workers so that farmers knew who was available and what their skills were.
  • Women’s War Agricultural Committees in each county encouraged farmers to employ WLA recruits after initial training
  • WLA training centres and special short courses at existing agricultural colleges were established to give an introduction to work on the land for recruited ‘land girls’

April 1917

  • WLA Group Leaders were recruited from experienced former permanent volunteer workers of the earlier Women’s National Land Service Corps (WNLSC)
  • Some more-experienced WNLSC members became instructors. Outstanding women became the superintendents of these new WLA training centres.
  • Enthusiastic and well-educated young women were chosen to become ‘Gang Leaders’. These women had to take responsibility for the work of 3-4 fields workers who worked as ‘land girl gangs’ on individual farms from June to October each year

30 November 1919

  • The Women’s Land Army was officially disbanded. (On 1st June 1939 the WLA was to be re-created in time for what was to become World War Two.)

Summary adapted by Stuart Antrobus from The Women’s Land Army: a Portrait (Gill Clarke)

Click here to see the timeline of Women’s Land Army developments during World War Two.