- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Constance Hoskins
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 17 March 2004
This is one of the stories collected on the 25th October 2003 at the CSV's Make a Difference Day held at BBC Manchester. The story was typed and entered on to the site by a CSV volunteer with kind permission of Constance Hoskins.
Memories of a Land Girl
I lived in Yorkshire in a small village before I was sent away, it was relatively quite, we had our air raids and so on, but it was quite. Then I was sent into the Land Army, I had never travelled so far on my own before, but I got there eventually, to Minster near Ramsgate.
This was where I was billeted.
The first night I spent in Minster, a Doodlebug came over, quite frankly it was so low I thought it was going to come through the roof, but it just skimmed the rooftop and I believe it went on to the sea and didn’t hurt anyone. After a while you get so used to it. I was working out doors of course, and Doodlebugs were continually flying over, hundreds of them. At night the sky was full of these little moving lights, which was the flame from the exhaust of the Doodlebug. I was quite near Mansden Airfield, which was quite busy; it was an emergency landing airfield for aircraft coming back from enemy territory. If they were damaged it was the first place they came to make a landing, some of them didn’t make it unfortunately, there would be an explosion and the poor things in the aircraft would have been killed in the crash.
It was interesting that it had a very wide runway at Mansden, a squadron of Spitfires would take off in formation, it was quite spectacular really. When they came back it was upsetting if you thought about it, there would be spaces in the formation where a plane had been shot down. There were bombers as well as fighters on the airfield, it was really very interesting.
I met my husband down there, he was in charge of a gun site which was for aircraft protection. He was very keen on aircraft and types and so on, and I learnt quite a lot from him about which aircraft was which, and the names of them. There were some called Barracudas, I think they were with the fleet air arm; they carried a torpedo under the fuselage.
Down in Ramsgate, in the harbour there were motor torpedo boats. A bit further south was the town of Deal, the sea coming up to the beach, it was absolutely littered with ships masts that had all been sunk.
I could never get as far as Dover because the public transport stopped running so early, the last bus from Ramsgate was at 7.30 in the evening, the last train was about ten minutes later so I could never get to Dover. I would have liked to, even though it was having air raids every day, but I worked it out that had I got there I would have had to have come back immediately there wouldn’t have been time to stay.
The Germans were very methodical, we used to go to the cinema in Ramsgate on Sundays and there would be air raid warnings going off all the time. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon there would be an all clear, and that would be it for the day, after the all clear you would know the Germans would pack up and go home or go back to the billet.
I look back on it now with…..it is nostalgia, heaven help us if we have to go through anything like that again, it was pretty frightening at times. It’s surprising how you got used to it, all day and all night long there would be an explosion going off, sometimes it was near, sometimes it was a distant thud. You become quite blasé towards it if one was near and just carry on working. There were land girls who had been there longer than I had who had been there during the blitz when they bombed Mansden air field, they talked about scurrying for cover because the air field was so near, a stray bomb could have landed at any time.
As a land girl I would spend the winter months threshing, quite an uncomfortable job really, it was dirty, the whiskers on the barley would get inside you collar. In the summer months, from about March or April, we went to a market gardeners and picked potatoes and tomatoes, sort of harvesting the crops. It was quite nice really, except that you had to go everywhere by bicycle and in the middle of winter it was more than a bit cold.
The land girls all got on extremely well, we all had stories to swap about various boy friends we’d had because there were so many servicemen billeted round about. There were Army, Marines and Airmen. The Royal Marines that we got to know were billeted in Deal, they would come quite regularly to our social evenings in the village. We used to call it the sweat box, it was a large hut. They used to disappear for a while, perhaps ten days or so, you would hear on the news that a raid had taken place on the coast and it would be them. They would come back and say very little, just hint at what they had been doing.
I was in Kent for just short of two years, a lot seems to have happened in that time. When I was demobbed I went back to the office where I’d worked before, it was terrible after being out in the fresh air all day.
My daughter now lives in the south of England, the last time we went to Canterbury there was a new museum that had opened, and in there were things that had been dug up during this period.
I go back to the areas now when I go to my daughters, we look at places where I used to be. I remember one farm, there were two or three actually, they were places where I’d worked. One had orchards and one had lovely black and white Frisian cows. When I went back, it was awful, the fruit trees had all been taken up, there wasn’t an orchard in sight and at the dairy farm there wasn’t a cow to be seen.
They always say you shouldn’t go back to places, it was upsetting really.
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