Gwendoline Yvonne Raggett (née Place) MBE
First Name(s): Gwendoline Yvonne
Unmarried Surname: Wellings
Married Surname: Raggett
Date of Birth: 29th June 1926
Place of Birth: Southampton
Date Joined WLA: c.1940s
Date Left WLA: 12th November 1949
WLA number: 135598
Previous occupation: For a short while I worked in the Box Office at the cinema.
Reasons for joining: My father forbade me to join the armed services. I visited the Labour Exchange and although it was my intention to join the Timber Corps, they said they needed more Land Girls….so I joined!
Family’s reaction to joining: They were OK.
Reactions of local people: Good – we were treated well.
Treatment by farmers or market gardeners: Very good
Reasons for leaving: I got married in July 1949.
Pre-work training: None – trained on the job. I took the “Women’s Land Army Proficiency Tests III for Market Garden and Field Work” in January 1945. I still have my notebook where I kept notes of everything I was taught on the job.
Worked mostly in Hampshire and some in Wiltshire. Worked in Chute Standen, Andover, Appleshaw. Then later Burley, Holmsley.
Work liked least and most: Liked thatching. Disliked threshing – so much dust and no protective goggles. I used to have to drive the lorries with my eyes full of dust. Very unpleasant.
Type of work undertaken: Did thatching, picking potatoes, field work, hedge cutting. At the egg farm my job was to feed the chickens and collect the eggs. Later I was the truck driver, driving girls round to different farms.
Any accidents or injuries sustained by you or by fellow workers and what effect they had: I was potato picking in the farmer’s field, when suddenly my back went. Somehow, I managed to get the bus back to Redenham House but ended up crawling on all fours up the long driveway to the house. I can’t remember much after that.
Other Land Girls worked or shared accommodation with: Rose Arnold, June Larkham, Mary Steed, Olive Sparrow, Gwen Tregellis, ‘Titch’ Brunton, Lily Sheppard, Doris Bailey, Jean Doe, Beryl Isaacs, Sue Mason, Nora Walker, Peggy Dee, Gladys Shaw, Betty Wellings, Ann Hemmings, Ann Brampfit, Doris Parsons, Olive Baily, Joan Cliff, Monica Brady, Doreen Frampton, Audey Plant, Hilda Stockford, Joyce Williams, Joan Preedy, Carol Jeeves, Kay Meacher.
Lived in a various hostels:
- Redenham Park House, Andover, Hampshire
- Standen House, Chute Standen, Hampshire
- Burbush House, Burley, Hampshire
- Beach House, Holmsley, New Forest
Life after the war
Stayed on the land
How did work in the WLA effect your life? It enhanced my life. I had never mixed with many people in my age group as I was expected to work in the home after I left school. I met and made many life-long friends and continued to write to them and meet at reunions throughout the years.
Best and worst memories:
I enjoyed it all especially because of the friendships I made. It was the first time I came across cheese and jam sandwiches! I remember “Cookie” (the Cook) waking me up so that I could go round, knock and doors and wake the other girls up. Some girls would be already up and with full make-up on! In each room there would be 6-10 girls in two tier bunks. I remember when we arrived, Mary grabbed the top bunk! Lorries would be arranged to take us girls to a dance at the nearby army base. We would meet RAF and Americans. But we had to behave and be back by 11pm.
I didn’t enjoy driving at night and in thick fog with no white lines. After picking up the girls some of them stood on the running board to help guide the lorry in the dark. Then I had to remove the rotor arm each night and hide it under the bonnet in case the lorry was stolen. I also had to drain the radiator each night so that it didn’t freeze and then re-fill it in the morning.
I remember the fire at Redenham and forming a human chain to pass buckets of water along the line to where the fire was. We did this until the fire brigade arrived.
I remember the agony of hobnail boots!
Opportunities to meet other Land Girls: We tended to stay within our own group as there were around 100 girls from all over England living at the hostel.
Any outstanding achievements:
I continued to meet at reunions and organized one myself. I organized the event in 1990 to have a tree planted at Redenham House in memory of the former Land Girls that served there.
Over the years I volunteered for the WRVS (RVS) to deliver meals on wheels and books to the housebound. I have now completed 55 years’ service and I still continue to deliver books. My proudest moment was receiving the MBE from the Queen.
Any other comments on time in the WLA: I loved it all. As well as working hard, we had fun. I remember the play performances that ‘Titch’ Brunton wrote and produced in aid of North and South Tidworth Welcome Home Fund in February 1946.
“The above photograph was taken by a passing local newspaper photographer. After this picture of Gwen thatching was published the article was seen by the WLA and someone was sent to haul her over the coals for the disrepute she had bought to the Land Army because of the way she was dressed. Gwen told me it was a bakingly hot day and she taken off her shirt and wrapped around her and tucked into her shorts!” Gwen’s daughter-in-law.
Name: Gwendoline Yvonne Raggett