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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Peoples War Team in the East Midlands
People in story: 
Joan Baston (nee Matthews)
Location of story: 
Newark, Nottinghamshire
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
02 August 2005

Land Girl Joan

"This story was submitted to the site by the BBC's Peoples War Team in the East Midlands with Joan Bastons permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."

I came to Newark from Nottingham 4 days after I was 18 on August 1st 1943. I had never heard of Newark let alone Collingham and I couldn’t ride a bike. The first three days of my time in Newark I spent in the hostel garden picking caterpillars off cabbages and crying for my mum (and the rest of my family). I did learn to ride a bike, but once I got on I was still unable to go round corners and regularly fell off. I used to have to hit a gate post to get off. I once remember coming down the village. Two men where standing by the pavement — such was my lack of control that I went between them, knocking one of their pipes out. I often had to cycle 6/7 miles in a morning, getting to the farm for 7am.

I worked as a general farm worker — picking potatoes, carrots and sugar beat etc. Then I worked with cart horses and learnt to load and team. One foreman helped me build a stack — there’s not many girls that can do that. I’ve done everything on a farm apart from ploughing and milking.

We worked hard and played hard. There were several airforce camps nearby and they used to send a lorry to us to take us to the dances. The warden was very strict — we had to be back by 10pm, 11pm if we had a dance.

While on the lorrys we once came down a big hill and the load slid out. I had to stand there directing traffic.

The farmers we worked with used to have a clean shirt on a Monday. I was throwing muck one day and chucked it all over one farmer who called me a dirty devil.

If we ever complained about anything it was always our fault and we were always reminded there were other people worse off than us. Many farmers were very kind and took us in for dinner. I eventually married an agricultural contractor and I’m still there to this day on the farm.

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