New Year’s Eve Message 2021
Well, 2021 has been another strange year for us all, starting here in the UK in lockdown and now about to enter 2022 with some uncertainty over what lies ahead. Despite these uncertainties, there’s continued to be a great deal of interest in the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Timber Corps.
It would be remiss of me not to start this New Year’s message without highlighting the incredible work of the Cinderella’s of the Soil Project in Suffolk. Nicky Reynolds and her team of volunteer researchers have put together an excellent interactive map sharing photographs, documents, and memories about Land Girls and Lumber Jills in Suffolk. They’ve also produced a vibrant, high-quality online exhibition about the work of the WLA which is well worth a browse.
The team are continuing to build on this project in the year ahead, so if you know anyone who worked in the WLA in Suffolk, do share their memories with them. This project is unusual in spotlighting the work of the WLA in a specific county; Stuart Antrobus’ excellent work on the WLA in Bedfordshire is the only comparable project. A huge congratulations to Nicky and the Cinderella’s of the Soil team.
There’s continued to be much media interest in the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps. Earlier this year, a Land Army doll, belonging to a veteran was lovingly restored to her former beauty on the Repair Shop.
Then, on Channel 4, Joanna Foat, the author of the excellent Lumberjills, spoke on Walking Wartime Britain about the critical work of the Women’s Timber Corps. I was also thrilled to be interviewed about the WLA by Michael Portillo on Great British Railway Journeys on Tiptree Farm in Essex.
On a personal level, it’s been hugely rewarding seeing my sister Skye Watton, create her own video series spotlighting a series of poems written by Second World War Land Girls. Popular poems such as ‘Remember Us’ joined more obscure ones in commemorating women’s different experiences of working on the land.
I was also thrilled to hear from Geraldine Roberts-Stone, who got in touch with me about her PhD research on the topic of Land Girl poetry. Geraldine has been very generous in sharing some of her research with us all in a series of blogs, taking a deep dive into both the obvious and hidden meanings behind some of the poems women wrote about their wartime service. As I’m sure you’ve seen, poems are really thought-provoking sources for looking at how women understood their work as a Land Girl.
Pre-pandemic, I loved going to speak to different local history and women’s groups about the history of the WLA. Though the pandemic halted these in-person talks, I have nonetheless enjoyed talking about about women’s wartime agricultural work with WI’s and students groups via Zoom. Often at the end of these talks, people share memories from their own family member’s time as a Land Girl or Lumber Jill, or have interesting questions to ask about their work.
As many of you have seen, I dedicated this year’s monthly post to showcasing the vital work carried out by the Women’s Timber Corps. Each month, we looked in detail at a different photograph which encompassed some part of their work – inviting us to ask lots of questions about the nature of their work.
As always, I would like to end this annual message with a few thank you’s. Thank you to my family who continue to support the website in their own special ways. My mother, Helen, has been invaluable over the last year, scanning and transcribing material which will be shared on the website in the future.
Thank you also to Stuart Antrobus, who continues to support my work running the website behind the scenes, since we first met in 2013. WLA collector Catherine Procter has also continued to be generous in sharing her rich collection with us all, as I gradually share more and more of it on the website. Thank you also to the Chalke Valley History Trust who have kindly awarded me funding to cover the next phase of development on the site.
Last, but by no means least, thank you to you, supporters of the website who continue to play a vital part in continuing to honour the work of the WLA and WTC.