Oct 092018

In May 1946, Iris Dixon joined the Women’s Land Army. Owing to a poisoned arm, she stayed in the WLA for just 5 months. However in this time, she experienced the joys of wearing a uniform for the first time, close friendships, and lots of hard work. Ruth Wood, recorded the memories of her late [ex] mother-in- law and has shared them with us below. Take a read and follow Iris’ whirlwind 5 months working on the land.

Be In The Winning Team Leaflet

Arriving as a new Land Girl

As the train drew into the station, a big steamer, taking me to what and who knows the adventures yet to come. In my new uniform of the Land Army with the baggie trousers and a big coat, smartly cream shirt and a nice green pullover. Having been told to look for girls dressed the same, found myself smiling at little Gladys, who was to become a true friend, we was to be constantly [at] one another’s side. The journey didn’t seem to take all that long to Suffolk but found myself in a big manor house at Sutton Hoo [famous for the find of Viking treasures]. The rooms of the house were set up with bunk beds with ten girls in our bedroom. I made friends with Joyce and Gladys and a little cockney girl called Pat. [There was also a room] for the boys. The other girls were from Newcastle and Sunderland and I was not used to the accents. How friendly I got with Gladys I’m not sure, but she had no parents and just one brother living in the East End of London.

We had two sort of Matrons that would look after us and it was one of these who sent me home with the poisoned arm.

Land Girls with potatoes

Land Girl re-enactors holding a sack of potatoes.

The fastest potato pickers…

We had some great times together, and we were the fastest working potato pickers, often going to farms on request to help the farmers. By this time, she [Gladys] had met her Wally. He was really in love with her and always asking to marry her but asked my advice as he had a weak heart but happy to say that they did marry and before we lost touch had a little girl called Glynis. I should have gone to the wedding but had come away from Woodbridge, and never ever got to go.

Some of the times on the field were really good, we would wait for the old coach to come to collect us.  The seats were taken out so we would have to sit on the floor.  All the time we were travelling we would sing all the army songs we had picked up and most of the old music hall ones.  We were dressed in brown coloured bib front overalls, wellies turned down and a blouse with a turban scarf or gypsy scarf as it was a hot summer and was to protect from the sunshine.

Fordson Tractor At Gressenhall Museum

Jobs on the farm…

We would hoe sugar beet, it taking three rows for cutting out, and about thirty of us would do the fields.  When your row was finished you would go behind the other girl.  Other jobs we did were stoking, which meant getting the hay when it came off the thresher. Four girls would stand the [stacks] up and would return another day to turn them round.

Potato picking would be working behind a tractor as they turn the potatoes up. You would work in a gang to gather them and put them in buckets then fill the sack.  The hardest job I found was pitching with a pitch fork when picking beans.

We would put all our lunch boxes together then discover that they were running alive with ants so we all had a good meal of fresh potatos and carrots.  We had a good meal when we got back to the hostel ie the Manor House where we relaxed in the big hall and played games. The RAF men would come in and play table tennis and cards.

We also worked with German and Italian prisoners of war. The Germans were haughty and would look down at you.  They [prisoners of war] had a big moon shaped patch on the back of their clothes.

All round the hall were the oak panels and the fire place was so big that you could sit inside. There was a huge marble like one with the fire in a basket [small grate]. A lot of people had carved their names on the fire place.

Our bedroom had a lovely bay window [with a window box] over-looking the grounds.

“You can come out of that lot as quick as you like”…

I didn’t really fit in with this work. I had a poisoned arm and it was so bad that I had to go home on sick leave with my arm in a sling. You can just imagine what my mum said, and dad said “you can come out of that lot as quick as you like”. I had no resistance to not agree. By this time it was nearly Autumn that I came home again.  I never lost touch with Gladys for a long time and would write very regular. She would sign herself ‘your little sister’ as we had grown fond of one another. She came to show me her baby while I was still working and not long married.  I often wondered if she had any more babies. [Glynis] would be nearly forty now.*

Ruth Wood, written in the 1980s.

Jan 012018

To mark the first day of every month in 2018, we will be looking at a range of illustrations which Land Girls themselves drew and sent in for The Land Girl magazine. Not only were Land Girls and Lumber Jills working hard on the land and in the forests, but some also found the time to put pen to paper and draw!

In 1942, the front page of The Land Girl contained the following about the rotation of illustrations for The Land Girl covers:

New Departures from the front page of the April 1942 edition of The Land Girl.

New Departures from the front page of the April 1942 edition of The Land Girl.

Not only are these illustrations interesting to look at, but they are are useful for considering how Land Girls came to represent their experiences – sometimes humorously, sometimes seriously. As you can see from the selection of images below, some were simple sketches such as the one used for January 1942. Others were more detailed, as seen with the effective use of shading by Audrey Wakeford and Anthea Shelmerdine for January 1946 and 1947 respectively. These illustrations portray Land Girls undertaking several jobs such as feeding lambs, milking cows, delivering milk, clearing, and picking potatoes.

The Land Girl Image January 1942

January 1942 by Miss Barbara Hey.

The Land Girl Image January 1943

January 1943, by Miss J Salisbury (72819), Warwickshire.

The Land Girl Image January 1944

January 1944 by Miss Audrey Wakeford (40839), Berkshire

The Land Girl Image January 1945

January 1945 by E.Wright (73902), who won first prize in a WLA Handicrafts Exhibition in West Suffolk.

The Land Girl Image January 1946

January 1946 by Audrey Wakeford (40839), Berkshire, whose work makes another appearance.

The Land Girl Image January 1947

January 1947 by Anthea Shelmerdine (36469), Salop


Oct 012017
Nights Out and Dancing Collage

A Night Out and Dancing Collage


From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Land Girls and Lumber Jills, some in uniform, some in mufti, dance with British soldiers at a dance in a large hall, near to their camp in Culford, Suffolk. The dance band plays and Union flags, and the flags of America and Russia decorate the walls above the musicians. A poster to the right of the stage advertises another event to be held at the Corn Exchange on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 May. Source: IWM D 14123
  • Land Army holiday camp, Cookham, 1942. Source: Mirrorpix

  • Lily Harrison, Barbara Wilson, and Mona Feather (l to r) from Milton Ernest WLA hostel in Bedfordshire ready for a ‘night out’ after a hard week’s work, c.1940s. Source: Stuart Antrobus

  • British Land Army girls and members of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WAAF) dance with men of the US Eighth Army Air Force in Suffolk during 1943. Source: Pinterest
Jul 202017
Angela Ottaway

Angela Ottaway, reading her poem at the Church of St Peter in Redisham near Beccles, Suffolk. Source: Netta Swallow

“Angela is now 92 years old.  She was first based in the Land Army at the farm on Romney marshes.  It was not a good experience as she was employed by a woman who ran the farm and was a bully and abusive towards Angela.  As an example of this, one night she locked Angela out and she had to sleep in the barn.  Angela became ill working here and eventually she got a transfer to horticulture which she enjoyed very much.  She is still a keen gardener today and involves herself in a handbell ringing group, the local museum team of volunteers and the local church.  Her mother was in the Timber Corps in WW1.

Angela read her poem at the Church of St Peter in Redisham near Beccles, Suffolk.  It was “War, which has brought to others fear” by Hebe Jerrold, Women’s Timber Corps. The event was organised as part of a series of walks with a creative theme under the umbrella of Waveney and Blyth Arts.  The walk started from Redisham Hall where an open day with teas coincided with the event.  On arrival at the church the audience heard tales of Land Girls and their poetry, the Bloomsbury Set and Adrian Bell and how there were links between them.  Oonagh Segrave-Daly read a very moving poem “Let there be light” by Francis Heneage Burkitt.  She was inspired to write the poem after having read an article about the plight of children in occupied Europe during WW2.  She also read “Hedge Cutting” by Land Girl Alice Coates, a thoughtful poem about her concern for the environment. Then back for tea at the beautiful grounds of Redisham Hall.”

Netta Swallow, Walk co-ordinator, Waveney and Blyth Arts Beccles representative

Jul 012017

Land Girls and Men in Uniform

From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Hope House Land Girls with soldiers. Source: Joan Birchall archive
  • British Land Girls with members of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WAAF) dancing with men of the US Eighth Army Air Force in Suffolk in 1943.
  • Wedding photo of Land Girl Peggy Albertson (nee Davis), Bedfordshire Land Girl and ‘Joe’. Source: Stuart Antrobus
  • Hope House Land Girl with a member of the Forces. Source: Joan Birchall archive
Jun 012017

Picnics and Fun Collage

From left to right, top to bottom:

May 012017


From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Land Girls entertaining the troops at Thundersley Hostel, Essex. Source: Lorna Cosgrove
  • A get together after a day’s training. Versatile Iris Joyce types, farms and also plays. Source: Northamptonshire Records Office
  • Women’s Land Army in Retford in 1949. Source: Catherine Procter
  • One Saturday afternoon Ipswich Hope House in 1943. Source: Kara Lynn
  • Lady Godiva played by Brenda Collinge, Hulcote Moors Hostel, Bedfordshire. Published in the Bedfordshire Times on 1st June 1945, p6. Source: Stuart Antrobus
Apr 012017

Meal Times Women's Land Army

From left to right, top to bottom:

  • Lumber Jills enjoying a meal in their hostel in Culford Camp in Suffolk. Source: Margaret Elizabeth Sutherland (nee Coldwell) photo collection.
  • Lumber Jills eagerly awaiting their meals at their hostel in Culford Camp in Suffolk. Source: Margaret Elizabeth Sutherland (nee Coldwell) photo collection.
  • Land Girls billeted at a hostel in Wye, taking a break. Phyllis Ridpath is the lady second from the left, and the two ladies on the right hand side are twin sisters Peggy C. Robinson (later Dalglish) and Joan A. Robinson (later Wilson). Source: Hastingleigh.com
  • Land Girls enjoy a hot cup of tea after a hard day of rat catching on a Sussex farm during 1942. Source: IWM
  • Land Girls sharing their lunch break with a spaniel during on a farm in Sevenoaks, Kent in 1942. Source: Pinterest
  • Three Women’s Land Army trainees enjoy a ‘mite’ of milk before their day of training begins at the Northampton Institute of Agriculture. It is 6 o’clock in the morning. Source: IWM