New Year’s Eve Reflections


As has become tradition over the past few years, this post looks back at 2018 and developments related to the history of the Women’s Land Army.

First World War Land Girls

Centenary Commemorations

The First World War Centenary commemorations have made 2018 an exceptional year for interest in the work of the Women’s Land Army. On television, Emmerdale1918 and Britain’s Poppies all dedicated part of their programmes to the work of the First World War Land Girls. Emmerdale 1918 showcased the previously untold story of the first female farriers in the Women’s Land Army. I was honoured to be involved in Britain’s Poppies, talking about what was expected of women who worked on the land.

When meeting people from a range of backgrounds, many are surprised to find that there were in fact Land Girls in the First World War. Hopefully this recent television coverage will emphasise the important role which the WLA played in planting the seeds (pun intended) for a much larger organisation in the Second World War.

Remembrance Day at the National Memorial Arboretum, November 2018. Photo courtesy of the National Memorial Arboretum.

A very busy November

As we would expect, November was a busy month. I read a poem ‘We were summoned from the city’, published in The Landswoman, at the Armistice Sunday Remembrance Service at the National Memorial Arboretum to over 10,000 people. It was wonderful to have the crucial role women played in food and timber production remembered, alongside the sacrifices made by men and women in military roles. In November alone, I enjoyed talking to students at the University of Birmingham, supporters of the Bedford Historical Association, and visitors of the North Elmham Archive Group about the WLA and Women’s Timber Corps.

Cherish Watton History Undergraduate Prize

A year of personal highlights

Winning the Royal Historical Society Undergraduate Prize back in January was an honour and has helped the website reach a wider audience. Since then, I’ve given talks at the Public and Popular History Seminar series at the University of Cambridge and the RHS Public History Symposium. Back in May, I was delighted to give a short talk on the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps as part of Elizabeth Carney-Marsh’s ‘Bonnets to Breeches’. Visitors walked around the beautiful grounds of Clumber Park as they followed a drama production centred on women’s journey and experiences in the WLA.

On November 16th, a record number of people looked at the site in one day – over 1000! The monthly posts featuring drawings from the front page of The Land Girl have also been well-received on Twitter and Facebook, showcasing the other hidden talents of land workers. Recently in December, I gave the website a bit of a facelift. I hope that visitors will find that the website is fresher and works better on mobile devices.  

Using the cross-cut saw. Spenny and another woman.

Thank You

Each year, the list of people to thank grows longer and longer. I continue to be overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the number of people who support the website, whether on the site itself, on Facebook and Twitter. People around the world continue to share stories, photographs, and documents on all aspects of life in the WLA. Of course, I can’t name you all individually, but the site wouldn’t be where it is without your support and engagement. A few special thank you’s though to: Stuart Antrobus, Ros Wong, Catherine Procter, Elisabeth Sweeney, Ailsa and Roger Whalley, Antony Carpen, and to my family, for their continued support for my interest in the WLA.

Wishing website visitors, a happy and healthy 2019.

Cherish

Cherish Watton

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