- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Margo Goodyear
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Civilian Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 November 2005
My days in the Women’s Land Army, 1942 — 1945 Part 2
The author of this story has agreed that it can be entered on this BBC website,
I worked for Sir Harold Mackintosh, delivering milk for a short time. Large milk churns were placed on pavements by the side of the road, but I had to collect two small churns, which fitted on to the front and back of my very heavy bicycle. Well, I pushed the bicycle a short way up the bridge and whoops, I wobbled and yes, you guessed right, the bike toppled over and all the milk flowed down the road. I had to return to the farm for a refill, and made my apologies. Fortunately, I didn't get into too much trouble at the farm, but there were a few shaking fists from housewives because my delivery was somewhat delayed and they wanted to get their rice puddings in the oven. Many ladies came to the door when I knocked for their jugs, but there were quite a number of jugs placed in various spots, which I was supposed to find. However, by the end of the week I became an expert.
I had a great surprise one day on a new round. Who should open the door, but an old friend of mine, very heavily pregnant, who was in hiding. Her parents were very religious and because my friend was not married, she had been sent away. However, she did become a GI bride. My parents did not know anything about this and yet they were great friends of my friend's parents. How times have changed. In those days, to have a baby out of wedlock was infra-dig.
Life in the hostel was pretty dull. Occasionally, we went to the cinema, but had to pay full price - no service rates for us. It rather annoyed us, when prisoners of war got special rates. Sometimes we went to the pub and shared a bottle of cider between two. Quite a few of us formed a drama group and we put on the occasional play or sang, but not for the public.
Of course, we had to be in bed early, not that it was a joy to go to bed. The bunks were so hard and damp. My father suggested I put brown paper between the wood and the palliasse, but it made such a noise that the girls near me complained. However, the Assistant Matron took a fancy to me. I loathed her, but she did put a hot water bottle in my bed at weekends, so I put up with her. She did become a darned nuisance and I was chivvied up by the other girls.
Back to work. I well remember that I was in charge of a few girls and we were to do market gardening at Goldsborough Hall, part of Lord Harewood's Estate, which was then a boarding school for boys. Our eyes popped out when we saw all the fruit trees and beds of strawberries. There were loads of peaches and lots on the ground. The temptation was too much and we girls had one each, the fallen ones of course. The following day I asked the Head Gardener if we might have some fallen fruit. We even offered to pay for it, but the answer was "No." We were only at the Hall a few days but we enjoyed our time there.
Another job I enjoyed was feeding the young animals. They were so sweet. Pigs were a different story. The first time I fed them they knocked me over. They grunted and squealed and were really boisterous, knocking the buckets of swill out of my hands. I think there was more swill on me than on the ground, but I learned to be crafty. I would throw something to the other side of the sty and then I was able to quickly pour their swill into the troughs.
One job I didn't like - not many did - was, during the freezing weather, picking sprouts, walking up and down narrow rows, getting drenched and frozen. The sprouts had to be put into string bags. One problem was getting our clothes dried and thawing out our bodies, with only two stoves in our hut. Plenty of damp air around, not very healthy, but we all took it in our stride. Amazingly, we were all pretty healthy during our spell in the WLA; even the hard work didn't seem to cause problems.
I don't think there was much we didn't have a go at, muck spreading, potato picking, hay making, driving horses, hoeing in large fields of corn. One had to do a good job of that otherwise one would suffer later when stooking and later threshing; thistles jolly well hurt when you were handling sheaves of corn etc.
Eventually, I was asked to work permanently on a farm. I was the only Land Girl in the village and I was given the nickname Squib. The farmer was a bachelor and treated me with great respect. He asked me to marry him, but I was engaged to Geoff. This didn't make any difference to his kindness towards me. Harry had a housekeeper who kept a beady eye on me. I think that she was jealous. Mind you, she looked like something out of a horror film, black scraped hair into plaited coils over her ears, glasses, black dress and bow legs. She did soften towards me after a while and offered me lunch. I remember well her roasted leveret. All the farmers used to help each other during haymaking and threshing and they liked me to sing whilst working. 'You are my Sunshine' was their favourite and when I was invited to the village dance, as soon as I walked into the hall, the band played `You are my Sunshine'. One of the labourers called out in a loud voice "What's tha got that muck on tha face for, Squib?" Of course, because of the event, I had make-up on and was wearing a dress instead of dungarees.
We occasionally had gangs of prisoners, sometimes Germans and sometimes Italians, the latter singing beautifully while they worked. Of course, I wasn't allowed to speak to them, not that I could have spoken their language. Anyway, they had several guards watching them like hawks.
I really enjoyed working on Harry's farm; it was such a happy atmosphere. I was allowed to plough with the tractor and did so many things that I wouldn't have had the chance to do on other farms. farms. But this all came to an end when I, with a gang of girls, had to go to the farm where I was made to sit with the slaughtered pig whilst having my lunch. Due to the fact that this farmer had been reported for being cruel to his animals and also for not running the farm as he should, the government was closing his farm down until a more suitable farmer could take over. We girls were to help with the threshing and after we finished, some girls were told to do other jobs. He said to another girl and me "You and you, come move some cows to another building." Sounds simple, but he had managed to get these cows, who were in calf, into such a flap that they panicked and made a beeline for the passageway that we were supposed to be blocking. I turned and was knocked face down, fortunately into manure, which saved my life. All these cows trampled over me. The other girl was pinned up against the wall and suffered a broken arm. Amazingly, I didn't have any broken bones, but thanks to the manure I was very badly bruised only. We were sent to hospital and X-rayed and I was eventually sent to a convalescent home, in North Wales.
After this, the Doctor ordered that I should be discharged from the Land Army. I was in agony and when I returned home my parents had to assist me in practically everything, even turning me in bed.
A friend visited me and suggested that I went to see an osteopath. Neither my parents nor I had heard the name before, but we visited this man who was most kind. He said that it would take a long time to put me right and that, whenever I felt the need for him, then I just had to turn up and he would treat me. This was most welcome because when I eventually went back to my old job I was sometimes so twisted in agony that I would be given leave to visit him. His surgery was just a short walk from where I worked and I would arrive in floods of tears, but he soon made me feel ready to carry on. He charged me one guinea a session, a lot in those days. I was unable to get compensation from the Land Army until Geoff came home for demob and he started the ball rolling. Not that I got very much, but it helped. These days one only has to trip over in a crack in the pavement and one can claim thousands.
Happier times were to come. Geoff and I were to be married and were to live in Hong Kong where Geoff was to take up the position of Art Director for an advertising company. My osteopath warned us not to try to have children for at least 2 years. This we did, but I still had to have many treatments for many years to come.
I must end with the following. Harry, the farmer, turned up at my parents' house just before the wedding with a huge cooked ham, enough to feed our guests at the reception. This was an absolute luxury. Wasn't he kind?
The Assistant Matron, called Nelly, turned up at the wedding with a present. I was very embarrassed, but you may laugh (four pairs of French knickers - in pink, yellow, blue and green satin). They were horrid, but why I don't know, I took them to Hong Kong and gave them to a white Russian who came begging at the door. She was very happy. The year was 1947.
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