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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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The Woman's Land Army

by bedworthlibrary

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Joan Molsworth
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 June 2004


At the outbreak of war, in September 1939, i was just 18. Having come from a farming background it was obvious that I would join the woman's land army.Miss Arkwright, from hatton hall, was the organiser for warwickshire and at the time my home was at the chadwick end. I was sent to the small village of Mildenhall, some two and a half miles from Marlbourough, Wiltshire.
It was a large farm, some 800 acres, hilly and mainly in grass, with 600 sheep and a herd of beef cattle and a small herd of cows. There was one other girl and we lived in the farm manager's home which was run by a housekeeper.
We milked cows, drove tractors, and worked with the sheep and cattle. We had very little free time. We had good food but the living conditions were somewhat primitive - no electricity and no water.
I had only one week's leave a year for which we got a rail pass. Eventually two more girls arrived to rplace men called up for the forces.
After my third year the WLA was appealing for girls with driving experience and who had served at least two years, to train as forewomen drivers for the War Agricultural Committe hostels. I applied and was, at my request, sent back to Leamington Spa the head office for Warwickshire.
First I took a course on lorry driving at RAF training centre outside Stratford-Upon-Avon. Then I went to the hostel with some 40 girls. From there I took the girls out to local farms to work daily and I stayed with the last group doing tractor driving.
Quite often land was being cultivated for potatoes around the industrial hostels for factory workers in the Coventry area, on golf courses and the auxiliary airfields at Warwick, Bramcote and Wellesbourne. No land was wasted.
We even cultivated the areas around the billets at Budbroke Barracks and planted potatoes. I cannot recall ever digging them up but I expect they were used in the cookhouse.
At harvest time threshing was often carried out with power from a static steam engine.
The dats were long , often too hot and too wet.For this i recieved 5 shillings extra for driving and 5 shillings for forewoman duties.I did get home to chadwick end more often at week-ends and, by this time, i had acquired a velocette 350 motorcycle which gave me greater inderpendence The living conditions at the hostel were quite good but very cold in winter.we had coke-stoves akin to army conditions i expect After VE & VJ days there were parades in coventry and birmingham and i drove a ferguson tractor in both. long service members - i had done six years by then - went to london to a parade. We stayed two nights at a hotel near hyde park gates. We were part of the big victory parade and afterwards attended a reception at the giuldhall attened bvy the Queen (Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother) Each of us were presented to her and recieved a certificate of thanks for our war effort. Then we went to the Mansion House for an evening meal.I left the WLA in october 1948.

This account was taken from The Antelope - The Magazine of Fusiliers' Association (Warwickshire)December 2000.

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