Jul 032017

‘My mother Mary Grace Gibbs served in the WLA between May 1943 & June 1945 in the county of Surrey. Mum was billeted with a Mr & Mrs Frank Allen in Briarwood, Dormansland & was part of a team who worked on local farms in the area. I would very much like to know if any farms Mum worked on may have survived & can be identified.’ Maxine McLaren

Mary Gibbs (on the left ) with Joyce, married name possibly Iverson.

Mary Gibbs (on the left ) with Joyce, married name possibly Iverson.


Mary Gibbs and friends at Briarwood, Dormansland

Mary Gibbs and friends at Briarwood, Dormansland


Mary Gibbs and friends

Mary Gibbs and friends at Briarwood, Dormansland



Sep 092016

lilies-on-the-landIf you live in the vicinity of Cobham, Surrey, the wonderful play by the Lions part ‘Lilies on the Land’ is being performed at Cobham Village Hall on Saturday 10 September as the finale entertainment to Cobham Heritage Day. This particular production won the Leatherhead Drama Festival in 2015 and has been revived especially for Heritage Day. Tickets are £10 inc a glass of wine and are available on the door. Start 8pm. ‘Lilies on the Land’ is a verbatim play charting the personal stories of four young women who sign up to become members of the WLA in WW2. How will these women, each of whom hails from a different social background, who are separated from their families and bereft of basic home comforts, deal with the hardships of farming life and the pressures of war? They may be outsiders in new surroundings but they are determined to do their bit for the War Effort and work endless, backbreaking hours on farms across the country. Based on dozens of letters and interviews with former Land Girls and interwoven with songs and news broadcasts from the period, this is a revealing, funny and often moving portrait of some of Britain’s pluckiest, unsung heroes.

Rodney Pearson

Nov 092014

General Information

First Name(s): Maud Pretoria

Unmarried Surname: Bird

Married Surname: Tandy

Date of Birth: 18th August 1900

Place of Birth: Hammersmith, London

Date Joined WLA: Agriculture 4th April 1918

Date Left WLA / WFC: 30th November 1919

Employment and Accommodation


Pre-Work Training: As far as is known, no pre training given.

1) Employed by?: Unknown

Names of any individuals?: Unknown

Dates with employer?: 4th April 1918 – ?

County: Surrey

Village: Godalming

Farm Name: Farmer’s names unknown.

2) Employed by?: Unknown

Names of any individuals?: Unknown

Dates with employer?: 1919

County: Bedford

Village: Cople, Bedford

Farm Name: Cople House Farm

3) Employed by?: Unknown

Names of any individuals?: Miss Leary, Mr Roberton

Dates with employer?: 1919

County: Bedford

Village: 184 High Street Harrold, Bedford

Farm Name: Priory Farmhouse


Accommodation in: Maud was accommodated in private billets at the farms mentioned above, although I’m unsure about Godalming.

Life After War

Life after war: At the end of her WLA service Maude took up a job as a milker at the residence of Sir Edgar Horne, a Member of Parliament for the Guildford division of Surrey. She was lodging at Shackleford House farm. She worked there from 1920 until Sept 1921. In October 1921 she sailed to New Zealand to Marry the New Zealand soldier she met during her WLA service.

Further Information

  • Family’s reaction to joining WLA / WFC: Seemingly positive
  • Any other Land Girls / Forage or Forestry Corps she worked with (please give names, if known): Pellie (surname and location unknown)
  • Impact of WLA / WFC on life: Maud had a very strong connection with the dairy cows.
  • Any other comments on time in the WLA / WFC: Maud met her husband to be during her time in the WLA – A New Zealand amputee soldier who was convalescing at Oatlands Park Hospital during 1918 and 1919.
  • Maude received an EFFICIENCY Certificate for Farm Work. The examination was on the 2nd May 1919 at Jade St, Bramley. Maud passed with a mark of 89%.
  • On demobilization Maud was awarded the GSR (Good Service Record) with noted excellence in milking, dairy and stock work and had earned three good service stripes on her arm band.

Contributor Details

Name: Mike and Brent Tandy

Relationship to Land Girl: Nanna

Aug 302014
Phyllis Longbottom (nee Drayton) Engagement photo, aged 19 or 20.

Phyllis Sahmer (nee Drayton) Engagement photo, aged 19 or 20.
Source: Jill May Hart (Phyllis’ daughter)

General Information

First Name(s): Phyllis

Unmarried Surname: Drayton

Married Surname: Longbottom, 1921 in Bombay, India

Sahmer, High Peak. c. 1952

Date of Birth: 20/9/1900

Place of Birth: Bournemouth

Date Joined WLA: Agriculture, c. 1916

Date Left WLA / WFC: Circa 1918?

Employment and Accommodation


Pre-Work Training: My Mother was a Bournemouth High School pupil when the Gt. War broke out. Leaving school at about 16, putting on her age and hoping to drive ambulances in France, she undertook an extensive private course of motor maintenance/engineering.

Employed by?: Private farmer.   She and a second land-girl were billeted in Farms. It was hard work but she always spoke well of this time.  Farmer’s wives made flasks of cold tea for the two girls.

Phyllis Sahmer (nee Drayton) in front (second right) of the Tractor and/or Motor Repair Works. She stands with her arms folded in the front row

Phyllis Sahmer (nee Drayton) in front (second right) of the Tractor and/or Motor Repair Works.
Source: Jill May Hart (Phyllis’ daughter)

Dates with employer?: c. 1916 – 1918

County: Oxted, Surrey and Oakham, Rutland. 

Village: Unknown

Farm Name: Farmer’s names unknown.


Accommodation in: Private billet. Second girl who worked on the Farm with my Mother was an Irish girl called Kelly. I can remember her name because my mother spoke warmly of her.

Life After War

Life after war: My mother enjoyed her service in the WLA. From an early age she loved engines, motors, and driving so it was a natural that she would want to put this ability to aid her Country. My mother left the service at the end of the War. She did no more farm work although she loved her time in the Service. She made good friends and spoke of her time in the WLA with great affection. She was married on her 21st birthday to my Father- who represented a British cotton firm- in St. Thomas’ Cathedral, Bombay, India.

Phyllis Sahmer (nee Drayton) back row second left

Phyllis Sahmer (nee Drayton) back row second left.
Source: Jill May Hart (Phyllis’ daughter)

Further Information:  She volunteered to help the War effort being young, strong, immensely patriotic and very practical. Being too young to drive an ambulance in France, she met up with her ex-Guide Leader, who turned out to be Red Cross Commissioner in London. Until joining the WLA, my Mother acted as chauffeur in London for the Commissioner, being on call both day and night and was very proud of the tin-hat she was given! She was very young still – 16 or 17.  She became very skilled in ploughing and took her Fordson tractor up onto semi-perpendicular terrain – work that most of the men- folk, declined to do for reasons of safety.

I believe she met only kindness from members of the public. She shared farm billets with an Irish girl- Kelly- and they got on famously. The Farmers’ wife made them flask of cold tea to drink in the fields. My Mother did not care for it when the first batch of German prisoners were brought over to work the land. I imagine that she must have felt a modicum of pity for them. Anyway she felt ill at ease having to work in the same field as the Germans. There was of course always a Tommy on guard with loaded rifle.

She could not serve again, in the 1939 – 45 War. as she was then a Mother, so she took in refugees from Nazi Germany. Most of whom became lifelong friends.

Contributor Details

Name: Mrs Jill May Hart 

Relationship to Land Girl: Daughter

Jun 042014
WW2 Land Girl Hilda Hook standing next to David Lloyd George. Source: Hilda's grandson Shaun.

WW2 Land Girl Hilda Hook standing next to David Lloyd George.
Hilda worked as a Land Girl on a farm owned by David Lloyd George in Churt, Surrey.
Source: Hilda’s grandson Shaun.


Her name was Hilda Hook and she was born on 31st August 1922 in rural Surrey where she lived her whole life; working as a farmer’s wife after the war and bringing up two children.  Her husband who she met towards the end of the war was some 15 years her senior.   How she came to be in the Women’s Land Army is a mystery I’m afraid although the leap in terms of geography is probably not too great.  
I would like to know if she made any friends with any of these women at this time and, if she did, did they stay friends.  I am inclined to think not of the latter as my Mum said that she was always at home when she was growing up and didn’t seem to socialise at all.  She did not as far as I know keep anything from that time other perhaps than memories and the photograph I have.

Text written by Hilda’s grandson Shaun.

If you have information to contribute, please e-mail info@womenslandarmy.co.uk