Training

 

Young women, most of them over the age of 20, who applied to join the Women’s Land Army from March 1917, were interviewed by a selection committee. The process involved assessing their aptitude for physical work and a medical examination. Those who were chosen and could demonstrate some previous training or experience would be sent directly to a farm which needed labour.

Untrained but ‘strong and healthy’ recruits were sent to a WLA training centre on selected farms around England and Wales. There were 247 of these training centres by September 1917.

Training was undertaken for one of the three sections of the Women’s Land Army: Agriculture, Timber Cutting and Forage.

Agriculture

  • Took 4 to 6 weeks
  • Consisted of the correct use of farm implements, milking, the care of young livestock and working with horses
  • Could also involve, for some land girls, mole trapping, farriery (shoeing horses), or thatching hay and straw stacks
  • For a few, it included learning to drive the newly-introduced motor tractors
A WW1 land girl recruit, training at the Cheshire Agricultural College, Homes Chapel.  Source: IWM HU 91978

A WW1 land girl recruit, training at the Cheshire Agricultural College, Homes Chapel. 
Source: IWM HU 91978

Timber Cutting

  • Took 4 to 6 weeks
  • Involved learning a range of skills, such as:
  • Measuring trees (for those well-educated)
  • Cutting down and stacking trees
  • Loading and transporting timber
  • Operating saw mills
  • Producing pit props and other timber products for the war (such as ammunition boxes and duck boards for the trenches
  • Tree nursery cultivation and planting (afforestation)
A member of the Women's Land Army Forestry Corps is assisted by a man in fixing an axe in the United Kingdom in 1914. Source: IWM Q 30697

A member of the Women’s Land Army Forestry Corps is assisted by a man in fixing an axe in 1914.
Source: IWM Q 30697

Forage Work

  • Tended to be training on the job
  • Operating steam baling machines
  • Producing bales of hay for horse feed and straw for bedding
  • (in mobile gangs of 8, including 3 male soldiers, moving from farm to farm)
  • Cutting chaff into short lengths
Members of the Women's Land Army thatch a haystack in 1914. Source: IWM Q 54604.

Members of the Women’s Land Army thatch a haystack in 1914.
Source: IWM Q 54604.


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