From inexplicable joy to bittersweet pain at losing loved ones, VE Day on 8th May 1945 was an emotional time for many as Victory in Europe was declared. The joyous, raucous celebrations existed alongside quiet moments of introspection on how the Second World War had touched all corners of Great Britain.
Land Girls and Lumber Jills around the country joined in the VE Day celebrations, which for many marked the end of their wartime service. Nonetheless, the Women’s Land Army continued to employ thousands of women until it was disbanded in 1950.
As editor Margaret Pyke wrote in the September 1945 edition of The Land Girl, “the end of the war does not mean that there is any immediate improvement in the serious food situation throughout the world.” Land Girls remained critical to the country’s food supply.
The images and footage below captures Land Girls’ joy as they celebrated VE Day in London, Bedford and Luton.
Bedfordshire Land Girls listened to the radio announcement in St Paul’s Square.
This group of Land Girls from Bedfordshire came together to celebrate VE Day by listening to a radio announcement at 3pm in St Paul’s Square, Bedford. Notice how some Land Girls have fastened their WLA badges to hand-made bow ties.
Source: Bedfordshire Times. Courtesy of Stuart Antrobus
Bedfordshire Land Girl, 94 year old Zeita Holes, recounted her experiences climbing a tower in Luton.
Earlier this year, Zeita Holes was interviewed for BBC Breakfast, where she recounted her memories climbing the tower at Luton Town Hall. Aged 17, Zeita joined the Women’s Land Army in Bedfordshire in the summer of 1942. She was based at Bolnhurst hostel in the north of the county and travelled out in mobile gangs each day to work on local farms. She left on medical grounds in 1945 after injury at work. She later married and became Mrs Holes.
Joyce and Cynthia played in the fountains in Trafalgar Square, shaping the collective memory of the celebrations.
The photo has become somewhat iconic of the VE day celebrations. And the video above shows Joyce Digney (née Brookes), left, with Cynthia Covello, celebrating VE Day with sailors in a fountain at Trafalgar Square. In 2015, Joyce recounted how:
“My very dear friend Cynthia and I were working in the Land Army and we said if we’re still alive when this is all over, we want to go to London, like we’d seen pictures from the end of the First World War, and celebrate.
And sure enough we were still alive, so we went to St Paul’s Cathedral and gave thanks we were. We both lost brothers who were pilots, so we said a prayer and then came out and looked at each other and said, let’s go and have fun.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people with smiles on their faces. It was the atmosphere of happiness that I remember.”
Cynthia notes that: “They showed me in yellow, but I never wear yellow! The sweater I wore that day was light grey, and the trousers were dark grey – I was always coordinated, you know, even in those days.”
You can read more about Cynthia and Joyce’s experiences on the Imperial War Museum’s website.
Other Land Girls joined Joyce and Cynthia for the Trafalgar Square celebrations.
Source: IWM EA 65799
Other women marked the occasion in drawing.
This special victory cover of the June 1945 edition of The Land Girl was drawn by West Suffolk Land Girl Miss E Wright (73902). The Women’s Land Army hat is propped up on one side of the V, as 5 Land Girls rake over the soil. The WLA played a crucial role in securing Britain’s food supply, as the country became 70% self-sufficient.
Source: IWM HU 49571
Were you or your family members in the Women’s Land Army or Women’s Timber Corps?
If you have photos you’d like to share, or questions you’d like to ask, please e-mail Cherish Watton, WLA Historian on firstname.lastname@example.org.