Annie Popplewell (née Basquill)
Registered and volunteered for W.L.A.
I received my uniform on the 1st May 1944 and was told to report to Woodlands Farm at Snaiton in Yorkshire on 1st May 1944. I got a bus there and was picked up and taken to the farm for 3 months training in all the trades of farming, all types of field work, tractor driving, working with horses, ploughing, etc, stock work, looking after beast, pigs, hens, sheep.
I was very lucky really as shortly after I joined they stopped training as it cost too much. They just sent them to work. I used to work from dawn to dusk but later found out I should have only been working 8.30 til 5 while training
I was transferred to a billet run by Mrs Midgey at Cross Gates near Scarborough where I stayed until early 1948.
There was just one girl, Joan Smith from Bradford, for a short while, but later there were 8 of us. I was now working for ‘North Riding War Agriculture’ (WAR AG) working in gangs and sent to farms all over the district wherever we were needed. I was made a ‘ganger’.
We went round different billets with a large lorry and a driver who took us to our farms and picked us up at night. It was hard work but we all enjoyed it and got on very well. We worked with quite a lot of prisoners both Italian and German.
They were brought in a truck just the same as we were. They came from a camp at Sherburn near Malton, this has now been made in to a show place called “Eden Camp”. They worked well with us. The brought their own food with them each day and they were fed better than we were.
I worked for 1 year at a farm and used to work with a horse and had a hay time and harvest with him (the horse). He was a very large “Clydesdale” but very gentle. When I first saw him I didn’t think I would be able to manage him but we got to be real friends.
My first harvest time we had been stooking corn all day and when I went to bed that night I was stooking with my pillow all night (so they told me).
The people in charge of the billets were quite strict. We always had to be in by 10pm but used to get a pass to go to other village dances about once a month.
I have so many memories (all good). I was once chased by a bull, a “Black Angus” – I was never good at hurdles when I was at school but I cleared a five foot hedge with no problem at all – but was quite shaken up.
When the corn was ripe, we used to go into the field and open them up with a scythe right round the field and hand tie sheaths before we could get in with horses (no combines then).
One of my worst jobs was leading lime straight from the lime kilns.
It was red hot. As we shovelled it out of the kiln onto our lorries it burnt your skin and any bits of hair that came out of your turbans. Then we took it and spread it on the fields. There was no bags of it then, just lime or manure.
Once I had to bring the 3 milk cows in for hand milking.
It was pouring down with rain and I had my head well down and should “cush, cush” and 3 came straight away so I got them in the cow shed and chained them in their stalls. The farmer came in as I started milking and stood watching which I thought was funny. But I soon found out why I milked 2, but when I got to the 3rd one it was the bull, the same one that chased me. He had come in with two cows and I had fastened him up – I nearly died! He was let out. Someone brought the other cow in but I was in no fit state to milk her – I never lived it down.
I used to work with the vets when they came to the farm to T.T. test all the herd and put tags on their ears.
The first tractor I drove was a “Alice Chalmers”, then a “Fordson Tractor” blue one, then a “Fordson Major”, a green “John Derre” small front wheels but best of all a large red “Massie Harris”.
In 1947 we had a very bad winter.
Everywhere was snowed up. All the roads where piled high both sides. Just main roads open with on lane. I was the only one in my billet of 8 who managed to get to work for weeks.
I used to bike from Cross Gates into Scarborough, about 3 miles, if a track was open, if not I walked then parked my bike in Scarborough then walked to the edge of the moors above Scalby. I often started this journey before 7 am getting there about 9.30 then started digging though about 6 ft of snow to get the turnips for the stock which was loaded on a sledge which the farmer had made. This was pulled by a small pony as the horse was too heavy to go in the deep snow. Then we chopped them up for feed for the beasts, etc with enough for the next morning. Then I would take two milk churns on the sledge with the pony to a dairy on Scalby Road, Scarborough to be bottled for customers.
The daughters of the farm went to school in Scarborough and they used to take the pony and sledge home and I had to get back to Cross Gates best way I could. I must say I loved that winter, stood on that hillside looking over Scarborough to the sea, all the land covered with deep snow, the sky brilliant blue and thick white cloud and the sea looked blue as well. I shall never forget “1947”. I left W.L.A. early 1948.
I was in the VE parade with 11 other W.L.A. and also the parade for V.J. I felt very proud.
We were told of V.E. when we got home from work so 4 of us decided to go to Scarborough. We had to thumb a lift. My dad had been a funeral director before he went in the RAF in 1938 and the first thing that came by was one of the hearses, I knew the driver and he stopped and gave us a lift (I never found out if he had another “passenger”).
When we got there the whole Forshore in the south bay was packed. What a night! I cannot remember how we got back. I think we must have walked because it was work as usual the next day.
I had a full season with the threshing machine from seamer.
This was a large steam engine which ran on coal and gave off sooty black smoke, the threshing machine was joined to the engine by a belt and that was how it was powered. We went from farm to farm till every stack of corn was threshed. You got a little extra pay for this as it was hard and dirty work.
When I was not threshing, for the rest of my time I worked for F. W. Dennis, Mayor of Scarborough. He had three farms; “Eastfield”, “Lowfield and “Cross Gates”. He also has butchers’ shops.
They were very happy years.
First Name(s): Annie
Unmarried Surname: Basquill
Married Surname: Popplewell
Date of Birth: 16.2.1926
Place of Birth: Scarborough
Date joined WLA: 16.2.1944
Date left WLA: 22.5.1948
WLA number: 14300
Previous occupation: Seamstress in Scarborough
Reasons for joining: She wanted to help out (from tales she told us)
Reasons for leaving: Time finished.
Treatment by farmers: I think some farmers did not look after them working them from dawn to dusk
Yorkshire, Snainton Woodlands Farm
F.W Dennis Eastfield, Lowfield and Cross gates
Types of work undertaken: All types of work milking, driving tractors, working with horses. Most liked working with the horses, least liked the lime spreading.
Best and worst memories of time: Don’t think she really had a bad memory
Opportunities to meet other Land Girls: Went to dances in other local villages about once a month.
Mrs Midgley Cross Gates near Scarborough (Billet)
F.W Dennis Scarborough (was Mayor of Scarborough)
Life after the war
Post-war occupation: Seamstress
How did work in the WLA effect their life? Mum loved the work according to her notes she probably wished she could have continued.
Name: John Popplewell
Relationship to Land Girl: Son