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Rita's Wartime Tale as a Land Army Girl Part 2

by cornwallcsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Rita, Mr Jelbert
Location of story: 
West Cornwall
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story has been submitted to the website by Joan Pearce on behalf of Rita who understands the site's terms and conditions.

Once the girls were in the field one sunny afternoon shucking corn when one of the girls who came originally from Plymouth and was used to the sound of different planes suddenly shouted for them “all to lie down” because a German plane was coming in. The plane machine gunned the ground fortunately missing the girls but shot up a bus that was passing in the road and all the upstairs passengers were killed. Apparently there was an anti aircraft gun in the swimming baths at Penzance which was actually “in action” and all along the front at Penzance the Royal artillery were stationed. The Germans tried to bomb the anti aircraft gun but missed and flattened “Taylor’s Garage” completely. Plus bombs were dropped on Penzance Station. Rita remembers when what is now the harbour car park was all water.

On one occasion Rita with some friend attended a disembarkation dance for the Americans. Afterwards they vanished and no one heard from them again. They all assumed that on whatever mission they went they were all lost. This was confirmed only a few years ago.

When the Americans came, their presence caused fights outside the Winter Gardens. The Enniskillen Fusiliers were stationed close by, soldiers all over the place. The Americans always had plenty of money and their silk stockings to tempt the local young ladies. Rita says that promiscuity is not just a modern thing but it happened back in the war years too.

During the winter months, from January onwards seed - potatoes were put to rest in various barns. The barns would be filled from floor to roof tops with boxes of seed potatoes which would stay there until shoots appeared and then they would all be planted by hand. The horse would dig a furrow and from May 1st onwards potatoes would be ready for picking up. The horse would plough one row and then the girls would follow on behind with a basket and then they would be put in half hundred weight bags ready for transporting out of Cornwall. They would cut broccoli from October until March or April this was how they were occupied during the winter months. Hay was cut, turned and carried by hand.

The main job throughout the wet winter months was mending boxes in which the broccoli was packed. Of course it was double summer time so the daylight hours were longer.

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