March Snapshot in 5: Essex
March’s post focuses on the WLA in Essex, which employed over 4,000 Land Girls. If you were a Land Girl who worked in Essex, or know one who was, then drop me an e-mail.
1. Women’s Land Army recruitment stand, 1943.
A recruiting stand used to attract women to join the WLA in Essex. Notice the range of visual material used to advertise the WLA; several propaganda posters, photos and a model farm. This exhibition travelled around the county to encourage recruits into the WLA.
Source: The Land Girl
2. Essex Land Girl Florence Mullender proudly wearing her WLA uniform, c.1940s.
Smarty dressed in her WLA uniform, Florence worked as a Land Girl in Essex on Cowder Hall Farm. She joined on 25th August 1941 while living at Milton Lodge in Stanford-le-Hope. She recounted on one cycle ride home in Wickford how she and another Land Girl were shot at by a German plane following them along the lane. In fear, they dived into a hedge where they were rescued by a ‘truck load of soldiers’ who took them to the farm. Though Land Girls like Florence worked on the Home Front, this did not shield them from the horrors of war. Florence married in January 1944 and left the WLA on 29th December 1945.
Source: Frank Last
3. Land Girls dressed as can-can girls, entertaining the troops in 1943.
Besides their day job, Land Girls often spent their free time supporting the war effort. Here we have a photo of a group of Essex Land Girls putting on a show for the troops before they left for war in 1943. The woman on the far right is twenty-year-old Lilian Taylor who now lives in Montreal, having moved there after the war.
Source: Lorna Cosgrove
4. A British Pathé video showing Essex Land Girls fighting the Colorado Beetle in 1948.
This British Pathé video shows a group of Land Girls near Dagenham and Grays going out to combat the Colorado beetle. In 1945 Land Girls were encouraged to look out for these pests as they would significantly undermine food production. Land Girls had to report and send any specimens to the Ministry of Agriculture. Women of the WLA helped to successfully eradicate the beetle from British farms.
Source: British Pathé
5. Members of the Dagenham Pipers combining music and farmwork on the land in Essex, c.1940s.
An unusual photo of 3 Land Girls who were members of the Dagenham Girl Pipers. Founded in 1930, they were a professional group which toured all over the world. Disbanded during the war, the 3 women here joined the WLA; Grace Richards, Margaret Fraser and Ada Clatworthy. According to Essex WLA historian Dee Gordon, the women camped in chalets owned by Reverend Graves at Great Sampford.
Source: Essex Land Girls by Dee Gordon, p.73
Further information on the WLA in Essex
Land Girls employed in Essex from April 1940 to 1947, calculated from the returns published in The Land Girl magazine. In April 1940, Essex employed 150 Land Girls. By September 1943, 4195 Land Girls worked in the county.
Chairman: Olive Tritton, Brent Hall, Finchingfield, Braintree.
Secretary: Mrs R.E. Solly Flood, WLA Country Office, Institute of Agriculture, Writtle.
Dee Gordon, Essex Land Girls, Voices from History (Stroud: The History Press, 2015).
Marjorie Geere, Landgirls: Links with Essex (Witham: A. Poulter, 1998).
Find out more
Interested in seeing more material relating to the WLA in Essex? Click here.
Did you or a member of family work in Essex as a Land Girl? If so, then get in touch.