Interview and training

From March 19187, young women, most of them over the age of 20, who applied to join the Women’s Land Army were interviewed by a selection committee.

The interviewers assessed the woman’s aptitude for physical work and a medical examination. Women who had already received some training, or had experience in farm work, 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. By September 1917, there were 247 of these training centres in England and Wales.

Women were trained to work in three sections of the WLA: agriculture, timber cutting and forage.


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

Timber Cutting

  • 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)
First World War Land Girls
First World War Land Girls who worked in the timber cutting section of the WLA.
Source: Catherine Procter WLA Collection


  • 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
Member of the Women's Forage Corps feeding a hay baler Source: IWM Q30688
Member of the Women’s Forage Corps feeding a hay baler.
Source: IWM Q30688

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