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15 October 2014
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Land Army Days

by Leeds Libraries

Contributed by 
Leeds Libraries
People in story: 
Connie Scargill (nee Hyde)
Location of story: 
Devon
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4045196
Contributed on: 
10 May 2005

Connie Scargill (nee Hyde)

LAND ARMY DAYS

By - Connie Scargill

1939 - 1945 - The Second World War.

I arrived home from work one day when my Mother said to me "When you have had your tea there are some forms which have come for you". Yes - these were my 'call up' papers, and I knew that I would either be sent into the forces or end up in 'munitions'. However, I had already made up my mind to go into the Land Army. When my Father heard this he, obviously, had other ideas, and he said that "no daughter of his was going to wear trousers in his home", so he was not at all pleased with my choice.

I cried myself to sleep that night.

However, I had my medical and passed grade A1. I was SO excited!

The next thing to happen was the arrival of my uniform, along with instructions when to meet the train at Leeds Railway Station.

The day finally arrived and along with my Mother and Sister, I went to the Station. When we got there we discovered another "Land Girl" had already arrived along with her parents. "I'm going to Okehampton in Devon", she said - "So am I", I replied. We very soon agreed that we would travel together and stay together once we reached our destination. My new friend's name was Hilda, and she came from Bradford.

Neither of us had ever been away from home before and in those days we knew nothing of life so to speak, and so it was all going to be a real adventure for the pair of us.

The train finally pulled into the station and we climbed aboard. The train finally pulled away when there were tears and waves from everyone. Our Mothers calling out to us all the "Do's and Don'ts" they expected us to follow whilst we were away, and the final instruction was that we be "Good Girls".
It was a long journey to Devon, and when we got there we were met by a Mr. Jennings, whose first words to us were “Oh - it’s so good to hear Yorkshire lasses. I'm from Roundhay, Leeds." So that was a lovely welcome for us.

We got into his car and away we went to a small village called 'North Tauton', in Devon itself.

We were very lucky to find ourselves being put into 'Private Billets' with a Mr. & Mrs. Jane, who made us feel very welcome in their lovely homely house. We all got on very well together and Hilda and I were happy there. Mr. & Mrs. Jane employed maids, who looked after us as though we were their own daughters. They were kindness itself.

Our first working day dawned, when we got up and washed in cold water - Brr!

A large lorry came for us and then ten more land Girls were picked up. What a lot of noise could be heard coming from that lorry as we all introduced ourselves and started getting to know one another!

Eventually we came to an area where there were miles and miles of moor land. This land was full of Potato plants, which were owned by The Ministry.

Our job was to go up and down these rows of plants pulling out those plants, which were either diseased or dead.
The day was a hot one and after a few hours it was 'break time', and were we all ready for it! Our backbones had already begun to make their presence felt! Those sandwiches were VERY welcome!!

After this three farmers came over to us and told us they were going to be with us all the time now. Their names were Old Jim; Courtney, whose nickname was 'Fyffe' (because he was always eating
Bananas), and the bosses name was John, and he was a bit of a lad!

We spent days and days attending to the potato plants. When they had grown we covered the plants, following which they had to be sorted and for this there was a machine with a grid, and this machine sorted out the larger and smaller potatoes. Duly sized they were put into lorries, which then took them away.

One day we got a bit of a surprise when eight Italian prisoners of war came over to us, along with their guards who carried guns, when they promptly asked us if we would like to have coffee with them. The coffee was good and as some of them spoke English this made it more interesting. We noticed that one of them used to disappear from time to time, and would then come back with apples, pears and other fruits. We were told that in 'Civie' life he had been a 'Bandit' living in the hills. He was very good looking and he used to sing to us all. He had a great voice!

After finishing off the potatoes we moved on to another moorland area. The weather was still very hot and we were getting very, very brown.

We were all pleased to see that the area we were being taken to was a mass of Golden Corn. Our job was to 'stook' it, and then 'thresh' it. (With the weather being so very hot we were allowed to wear our lighter clothes). What a great sight the large 'Threshing' machine was. It was a case of 'all hands on deck' then with a few of us making Hay Ricks. We had a great time doing the Wheat!

But - when we started on the Barley, we all looked an absolute sight in protective eye goggles, turbans on our heads and wearing large gloves along with gaiters round our ankles.

It was particularly important that our eyes be protected from the Barley 'spikes', which were like needles, and so if one found its way into an eye the farmer would come along and make us lie down on the ground whilst he pulled out the offending spike. Otherwise it was a visit to the hospital! As you will appreciate we all made sure we didn't end up with a spiked eye.

The good weather kept going for weeks and we used to work until 8 and 9 o'clock at night. Sitting on top of a Hay Rick the most beautiful sight to see was the sunset - they were beautiful.

Once we got down from the Hay Ricks, the farmer used to surround the lower part with wire fencing. At first we all wondered what was happening but we soon found out when a loud voice called out for us to be ready with our Pitch Forks. When the farmer said "Go", we had to dig the forks into the Rats, and not let them get away. Gosh! What an experience that was!

After this we were glad to get back to our billets; have a hot bath and a beautiful hot meal and then off early to bed.

Hilda and I never realised we had so many bones and muscles in our bodies as we ached all over. However, time passed by, and our muscles became hard and well accustomed to the strenuous work we were doing.

I reckon we were the first Gladiators of our day.

Then the Yanks arrived in the village...

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