Land Army kept the country going

PUBLISHED: 11:19 31 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:50 11 May 2010

WAR EFFORT: Former members of the Women's Land Army, Elsie Loates, Hazel Lord, and Denise Ferguson. 3078DW31

WAR EFFORT: Former members of the Women's Land Army, Elsie Loates, Hazel Lord, and Denise Ferguson. 3078DW31

THREE women have received badges and certificates from Prime Minister Gordon Brown for their service during the Second World War. Hazel Lord, Elsie Loates, and Denise Ferguson all served in the Women s Land Army (WLA) working in the fields and places suc

THREE women have received badges and certificates from Prime Minister Gordon Brown for their service during the Second World War.

Hazel Lord, Elsie Loates, and Denise Ferguson all served in the Women's Land Army (WLA) working in the fields and places such as milking parlours.

And now 60 years on, the vital contribution that these Land Girls made to the war effort has been officially recognised by the Government.

Some 50 women were given their badges at a ceremony in Downing Street last week, but the majority of veterans - including Hazel, Elsie and Denise - received their badges in the post.

Hazel, 83, of High Street, Bassingbourn, joined the WLA in 1943 and worked on two farms in Northamptonshire.

She said: "I wanted to do some kind of war work in one of the services.

"They didn't want anybody in the Wrens and the Land Army was the only one which had any vacancies."

Elsie, 81, also of High Street, Bassingbourn, was conscripted in 1944 at the age of 18.

She worked on dairy farms in Cambridge and Bassingbourn and remained in the Land Army until 1949, when she got married.

She said: "It was hard work and we were only paid about £4-a-week, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

"As well as helping the war effort, I had a lot of fun as well.

"We used to go dancing up at the barracks (Bassingbourn) and had a super time.

"We knew how to enjoy ourselves."

And Denise, 83, of Cedar Crescent, Royston, joined the WLA in September 1944, after working in a munitions factory earlier in the war.

Denise, who was billeted at a dairy farm in Swavesey, admitted that serving in the Land Army was hard work.

"I started off milking, but I got fed up with getting up too early, so I moved to tractor driving," she said.

"But I felt proud that I was doing something for the war effort."

The WLA was originally formed in 1917, when at the height of the First World War, Britain was blockaded by the German navy and faced the real prospect of famine.

Each Land Girl was issued with a uniform, which included brown brogues, corduroy breeches, knee-length fawn socks, a green V-neck jumper, a tie, and a brown felt hat.

By 1918, there were more than 23,000 Land Girls at work.

The WLA was disbanded in 1919 but re-formed in June 1939, three months before the Second World War began.

And at its peak in 1943, the WLA had 80,000 members.

The WLA was disbanded in 1950 but the women who served have received little recognition since.

But then, in January 2008, after decades of campaigning, the Government finally agreed to officially recognise the WLA veterans.

And since January, more than 30,000 women have applied for badges.

Speaking at the ceremony last week, the Prime Minister said: "The Women's Land Army worked tirelessly in the war years to keep this country going.

"Their work was absolutely vital.

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