There were two types of accommodation which Land Girls lived in:
Private billets: these were in farmhouses or farmworker’s cottages, usually alone, or with one or two other Land Girls.
Hostels: where girls often worked and lived together (the type of accommodation is typically represented in most television and film productions on the subject.) These were either requisitioned country houses or specially-erected hutments.
The treatment of Land Girls within private billets varied upon the house they were living in. In some cases, there were no problems; women were treated like daughters of the family. However, in some cases, women had to eat separately from the family (in particular on Sundays) and were made to feel very uncomfortable in their new ‘home’.
For some women, this was the first time they had left home. This in itself was a daunting experience, made worse for those who were treated with disdain. Some farmers were ruthless in their choice of girls, choosing girls who were 17 ½, as they could be paid less than 18 year olds. Some women had to live with old ladies and with this came a sense of missing companionship, as in some cases it was difficult to travel anywhere to meet people.
Mant comments that the condition of the accommodation varied from the likes of rat-infested houses to old world cottages with exotic fireplaces. In some cases, there was no electricity, and in many, water had to be got from a pump. Ration books were given to the main woman of the house whose responsibility it was to buy food. Some of these women would under-nourish the girls, and sell their rationed food on the black market.
There was a greater level of consistency with those girls in the Women’s Timber Corps as most of the time they lived in huts in the forest.
In the Archives
Click here to see a photo from the opening of a Women’s Land Army hostel in Alvaston Fields, Derbyshire