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15 October 2014
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Reflections of a Landgirl

by BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers

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Archive List > Land Army

Contributed by 
BBC Cumbria Volunteer Story Gatherers
People in story: 
Eleanor Appleby
Location of story: 
Northumberland
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A8077665
Contributed on: 
28 December 2005

I volunteered for the Land Army in February 1943, when I was 18 and served for 4 years. I wanted to join the WAAFS but my father wouldn't allow it. I was the only girl and he was very protective. I trained as a Dorman Diesel Dragline excavator driver at Hull. There were about 12 of us girls on the station at Newcastle. I'd never been on a train before and another girl who was bigger than me carried my case. We're still friends to this day.

After training I returned to Northumberland, my home area and for the rest of my time I lived in a caravan with 1 or 2 other girls. My family home was 25 or 30 miles away. The caravan was either very warm or very cold. There was a little sink I remember. It was very basic and made of wood.

We catered and looked after ourselves and moved from farm to farm digging drains, ditches and ponds and whatever else was needed. We started at 7.30 and finished at 5.30 with a half day on Saturdays. One girl would drive the excavator and the others would trim off the ditches by hand and generally tidy up. We took turns driving the excavator. It also had to be looked after, greased and cleaned.

It was a lonely life as we were usually miles from anywhere. It was situated about 5 miles from the site. It could be a very cold and wet job and there was not a lot of comfort when we got back to the caravan.

We often had Italian and German prisoners of war working for us, especially if they were big jobs. The Italians weren't great workers. The Germans were - there was no struggling to get things done. One German was a very good mechanic and helped us a lot.

We were a source of amusement to some prisoners. They seemed surprised that we girls could drive such big machines!

In 1947 men were beginning to drift back to Northumberland. I had met my future husband who was from the area, after he was demobbed in 1946 so in 1947 I left the Land Army to get married. My 4 years as a Landgirl were finally over!

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