Phyllis Evelyn Joy Williams
Many of you will recognise Phyllis Williams. She was the face of the popular WLA recruitment poster, which was reproduced in newspapers throughout the war. Phyllis, known as Joy, was one of the longest serving Land Girls, joining the organisation in September 1939 and leaving in November 1950. She worked as a general farm labourer in Hellidon, Northamptonshire. Her great-niece Anna, describes why Phyllis’ service in the WLA meant so much to her:
Anna has taken the time to send scans of her great-aunt’s extensive WLA collection – including shots from the now famous photoshoot, letters sent about her radio appearance, as well as Joy’s involvement in Northamptonshire WLA activities.
4 year arm badges presented at Wellingborough, November 1943
Gifts to the County Secretary
WLA Certificates and armband
First Name(s): Phyllis Evelyn Joy
Unmarried Surname: Williams
Date Joined WLA: 30 September 1939
Date Left WLA: 30 November 1950
WLA number: 23197
Previous occupation: Office clerk
Reasons for joining: Family link to farming. She was very close to her brother, who signed up for the Home Guard at the same time (an injury and his engineering job having prevented active service).
Family’s reaction to joining: Supportive.
Reactions of local people: Always treated well.
Treatment by farmers or market gardeners: Good
Reasons for leaving: WLA disbanded.
Pre-work training: British Red Cross First Aid Certificate – Warwickshire ARP Casualty Service. No other known training.
Worked as a general farm labourer in Hellidon, Northamptonshire.
Best memories: Best was being chosen to be the face of the Land Army ‘Be in the Winning Team’ posters.
Was in Helidon Social Club dramatic society with fellow Land Girls Alice Pergeter and Hilda Wells
Opportunities to meet other Land Girls: Hellidon Social Club. She was also very active in the WLA and attended presentation ceremonies, as well as Christmas and anniversary parties in London. In 1941 she was interviewed by the BBC about her work.
Life after the war
She continued to work as a farmer once the Land Army disbanded.
Outstanding events: 11 years and 2 months continuous service in WLA earned her a certificate from the Queen.
How did work in the WLA effect your life? It seems that it was the high point of Joy’s life, and certainly of her career. Her family had had to sell their large estate and farm (Little Rollright, Oxfordshire) when she was a child, and I think she appreciated that a socially acceptable way had opened up for an educated woman to work on the land. The early point at which she signed up, suggests she was keen to work for the war effort, and I know that she was disappointed that the Land Army disbanded in 1950.
Name: Anna Bliss Scully, great-niece