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Working on the land in Kent

by csvdevon

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Lavinia Judkins nee Howlett, Stanley Howlett
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
20 September 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War website by CSV Storygatherer Carole on behalf of Lavinia Judkins. The story has been added to the site with her permission. Lavinia Judkins fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.

In January 1941 at just 18 I joined the WLA. I was sent to Seal Chant near Sevenoaks in Kent. It was a market garden producing vegetables and tomatoes etc, but mainly a mushroom farm.
The work was mostly manual and often quite heavy. Six of us prepared and turned continuously 20 tons of manure twice yearly for the mush house, which often produced 400lb of graded mushrooms per day.
We were never without our tin hats when working in the fields. Dog fights were quite common overhead and we were close to the first line of the Barrage Balloon defence of London from the V1s (flying bombs). We had to lie down between the tomato or vegetable rows while the RAF shot at the V1s to destroy them (quite scary on a cloudy day).
During D-Day we had a grandstand view of masses of planes flying out towing the gliders behind them. It was an impressive sight. We were elated yet apprehensive for our lads going out there.
The queen of that time was a patron of the WLA and she sent a letter of appreciation and recognition to every Land Army girl in Kent for working under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. I am not aware of any other area receiving these letters.

My father was one of the team that manufactured “Pluto” — the cross-channel fuel line. Consisting of lead, the machine had to run continuously night and day in spite of the heavy air raids and they often had to put out fire bombs on the factory floor around them. I believe the team leader received the MBE.

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