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Women's Land Army

by nottinghamcsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
nottinghamcsv
People in story: 
Beryl Comerie, May Perkins, Doris Harris, Mrs Coveny, the Hooker family.
Location of story: 
Kent
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
A8511167
Contributed on: 
13 January 2006

I wanted to go into the women's land army at 18 but my parents wouldn't sign the papers for my release. So I joined the WLA in 1943, when i was 20 years old. I was sent down to Kent in the danger zone. I can't ever remember being afraid although we were in a hostel at the end of a fighter aerodrom (was it dicey), you can imagine. I can remember we were near or at Bearstead and we attended an open day at Lady Astor's home. All I can remember was a beautiful grand piano and lots to eat. I made a friend named Hilda at this hostel and she came from Erith in London. I used to go home with her on our free weekends. We never slept in the house, always in the Anderson shelter. There were six of us in bunks. Her mum slept in a deckchair, her dad worked nights in the Woolwich docks. I remember all their windows were boarded up and the piano and sideboard were pitted with glass from the windows. The bombing was bad at Erith. Why I went home with Hilda, I will never know. After a few weeks at Bearstead, I was moved down to a village called Headcorn and was with a friend from Calverton, Notts. Her name was May Perkins. We were billeted with a poor family and I remember May and I had to share a bed. Mum would have gone mad if hse knew how we lived. I made some wonderful friends in Headcorn. Doris Harris, Mrs Coveny, the Hooker family who kept the shop across from the church. I was confirmed at Headcorn Parish Church on March 3 1945. Mr Bryant was the vicar and he was great. Once a month we used to go to the Hookers home at the back of the the shop and they used to let me phone home, but many a time I didn't get through because of the raids. The phone was new thing at Birch Avenue, Nottingham (my parents home). Mrs Coveny came from a titled family and she had me to dinner Wednesday and Saturday evenings. She had a cook and most of the food was home grown. The table was always set with a beautiful white tablecloth and the cutlery was silver. She was a wonderful lady and did a lot for the church and village. I read many books from her library, her home was always open to me. There was a lot of snow in the winter and we had to walk miles to some of the farms. We belonged to the threshing gang. We had to wear tin hats when we worked in the fields on account of the dog-fights in the air. There was a sad day when we were in Headcorn: May's brother was killed over Germany. He was a Pathfinder pilot and only 19. Daisy Bell was our forewoman and there was some 'carrying on' at the farms. I believe Daisy married and lived in Headcorn but cannot remember her married name.
I had to come out of the danger zone after a while and came to Lincs to Leadenham, near Grantham. I missed the dicey days and was glad when I got home. The only thing I enjoyed was the dances at Cranwell. They used to put on an air force vehicle fo us. I got very friendly with a Canadian pilot til he suggested I visit his family with him when the was was over. Then I knew it was time to say good-bye.
I had some narrow escapes during my time in the WLA but only suffered a poisoned finger through Mayweed. Travelling was bad. I can remember standing from Victoria Station in Nottingham all the way to London packed like sardines with sailors, soldiers and airmen. But we had some laughs. Then I ahd to cross London and try and get a train from Victoria to Maidstone and then a train to Headcorn. I didn't come home often as our leave was short and it was a bind travelling. I spent hours in shelters. I suppose it was a dreadful time during the war but we got on with it and didn't bother. My parents never realised the danger, but I never let them know.

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