New Year’s Eve Message 2019

As another year draws to a close, I reflect on some of the ways we’ve marked the work of the Women’s Land Army – 80 years after the WLA was founded at the start of the Second World War.


It is however on the subject of the WTC that I’d like to begin. For many years, the work of the Lumber Jills was often forgotten. When I speak to different groups about the WLA and WTC, only one or two people in the audience raise their hand to indicate that they’ve heard of the WTC before. Hopefully, with the publication of Joanna Foat’s new book, this will begin to change. In ‘Lumberjills’, Joanna looks at the intricacies of how the WTC was set up and the range of work Lumber Jills carried out. She also traces their work to the First World War, rectifying the previous neglect of the timber-cutting section of the WLA. Joanna’s book is the first history dedicated solely to the Women’s Timber Corps. Keep an eye on it in those New Year Sales if you don’t already have a copy.

Office staff working at Balcombe Place
Office staff working at Balcombe Place during the Second World War, shared in the January post of 2019.

As regular website visitors will know, this year’s monthly series has focused on the logistics of running the WLA itself – an organisation which employed over 200,000 women from 1939 to 1950. January started with a focus on Balcombe Place, the beating heart of the WLA and December looked at the various training opportunities offered to Land Girls. As 2019 marks 80 years ago that the Second World War WLA was set up, Stuart Antrobus and I thought it would be appropriate to focus on aspects of the WLA which are not so prominent in our narratives on the WLA. You’ll have to stay tuned to see what we have in store for 2020.

The Farmer's Idea of a Land Girl
One of the recent treasures from Catherine Procter’s WLA collection.
‘The Land Girl’s idea of the farmer’, published in Punch on 13th March 1940.

On a personal note, I’ve given more talks in 2019 to groups of all sizes, sharing what it meant to be a Land Girl and Lumber Jill. Here in Havering where I’m now based, I’ve spoken to 4 local women’s groups, as well as the Little Hallingbury Village History Society, and Cannock Wood and Gentleshaw Gardening Club. Also in Birmingham, I gave a lecture to second-year undergraduates on what it means to run a public history website – both the opportunities and the challenges. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of my research into the WLA: going out and talking to people first hand about work in the fields, farms, and forests of Britain.

Cherish Women's Land Army Talk Havering
Cherish Watton, WLA Historian, giving her last talk of the year to a women’s group in Havering.

This website would not be running today without the support of a number of people. Stuart Antrobus continues to share all manner of WLA material for the monthly series, as well as provide general support for developing the website and proofreading material. Catherine Procter has been generous in allowing us all to see the wonders of her WLA collection, which grace all corners of the website. I’d also like to thank my family, in particular my mother Helen. She has helped me digitalise material which people all over the country send to me, as well as type up handwritten questionnaires from Land Girls and their families. This type of work is equally time-consuming and critical for moving forward the website, so we can give a voice to as many communities as possible.

Wishing website visitors a very happy and healthy 2020.

All the best


Cherish Watton

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