During the war the women of Britain joined many organisations and the various armed forces, wheras before the war women had not been able to join the sevices. One of the Corps especially created for women was the "Women's Land Army" where 80,000 women were enrolled to work on Farms all over the UK. The "Women's Land Army" (WLA) was a civilian organisation created during the First and Second World Wars to work in agriculture replacing men called up to the military. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as "Land Girls".
The Women's Land Army was often referred to as "The Forgotten Army" and was actually originally formed in 1917 by Roland Prothero who was the then Minister for Agriculture.
The Board of Agriculture organised the Land Army during the Great War, starting activities in 1915. Towards the end of 1917 there were over 250,000 - 260,000 women working as farm labourers. 20,000 in the land army itself.
With 6 million men away to fight in the First World War we in Britain were struggling to find enough workforce. The government wanted women to get more involved in the production of food and do their part to support the war effort. This was the beginning of the Women's Land Army. Many traditional farmers were against this, so the board of trade sent agricultural organisers to speak with farmers to encourage them to accept women's work on the farms.
The First World War had seen food supplies dwindle and saw the creation of the Women's Land Army (WLA).
The WLA was reformed in June 1939 first asking for volunteers and later by conscription with numbers totalling 80,000 by 1944.
The women were called "Land Girls", as they were affectionately known, replaced the men who had answered the call to war. They wore the same uniform as the "Women Timber Corps" ( Except with a different badge on their Beret's) and their living conditions were frequently primitive and for girls who had worked in shops, offices, hairdressing salons and restaurants, the work was pretty tiring.
The Women's Land Army was made up of girls from every walk of life. Posters of smiling girls bathing in glorious sunshine and open fields covered the fact that the WLA often presented raw recruits (many from industrial towns) with gruelling hard work and monotony. The majority of the Land Girls already lived in the countryside but more than a third came from London and the industrial cities of the north of England.
Homesickness was common as many of the girls had never been away from their parents for long periods. This was particularly true of girls that stayed in private billets. The girls that stayed in local hostels often told a different story and were more settled as they were grouped together. However despite all this there was a great sense of friendship amongst the girls.
The WLA lasted until its official disbandment on October 21, 1950. Looking back over the last 70 years it is always surprising how many stories there is still to tell concerning the British Struggle during the second world war and how the war affected every day life and person in the country. My generation who were born in the1950's and 1960's owe our parants and grandparants generation for todays freedoms and our grateful thanks.
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