Recognition at Last for Land Girls
As you can see from my story here, many Land Girls from cities served faithfully in agricultural environments to the betterment of themselves, the country as a whole, and the individual agricultural employer. Like me, many quit at the end of the war to return to their previous lives. No help was provided to these Land Girls returning to the cities, a state of affairs that infuriated Lady Denham our head found so much that she resigned in 1945. Some like me managed to find new employment readily in a new occupation, but many others remained unemployed. Even so, the steady migration from land to city continued and so many Land Girls left the Women’s Land Army (WLA) that it was formally disbanded in October 1950 over the objections of National Farmer’s Union. Five hundred Land Girls marched in a parade in front of the Queen at Buckingham Palace who addressed them, thanking them for their service[1. Video of this parade is available through British Pathe.] Beyond this thanks, from the Queen, the Land Girls received no other recognition either tangible or intangible.
Formal recognition by the State of our efforts to feed the country would perhaps seem like an inevitability rather than something us Land Girls would have to seek after the War, especially given the recognition granted other branches of the service after the conclusion of hostilities like the Armed Forces whose serving members received a service medal. However, in 1944 the government decided not to recognize the service of the WLA because it was a civilian organization. While this was certainly true, as I have detailed in my three assignments they were all for civilian employers who paid my wages for my efforts not the State, it is also true that the State used its power in the later stage of the War to conscript women into the the Women’s Land Army. Moreover, the civilian employment of nurses during the War did not stop the State providing gratuity payments to them. This disparity in how we were treated motivated some of our number to mount a campaign for formal recognition of our service.
Efforts to get us recognition did not amount to much for 50 years, but popular culture came to our rescue as authors wrote books[2. Representative is Angela Huth who wrote Land Girls in 1995] about our service that appeared in the 90s, and a movie was made in 1998. As we started to die out because of old age, awareness of our role in feeding the Country once again came to fore with more TV programming using plots that featured Land Girls.
Sally Tait says
I stumbled across your story while looking for any possible history of our house which is across the road from Lower Greenbank Farm. It was a cheese dairy owned by Bees during the war as Bill Drinkall from Catshaw Hall told me he delivered milk here at that time. I don’t know which branch of the Drinkall family Bill would be but I’m sure he was related to your Drinkalls. Bill was an agricultural student at the Harris Institute in Preston at the same time as my father Tom Rostron who travelled from Ramsbottom by train to attend classes. I think the Institute was the precursor to Hutton. I was intrigued to hear you knew a Gwen Baxter while here.
Mr Harvey was the manager of the cheese dairy and had a son Victor and a daughter Gwen. She married Eric Baxter and ultimately he farmed Moorbottom farm but the age doesn’t seem to fit with your friend.
However I found your story absolutely riveting , my Mother, born in Clevelys, was a WLA in Warwickshire on her brothers farm. She proudly wore her ‘eventual’ badge so much so we buried her wearing it. Don’t know if that was the right thing to do or not.
Thank you so much for your memories, I will be doing some questioning when next I see the Drinkall family.
Meanwhile just to let you know the view from Greenbank has hardly changed and is still breathtaking.
Very best wishes
Sally Tait (nee Rostron)
It was kind of you to contact Jeanne and I am replying on her behalf because she is receiving hospice care. But should the opportunity present itself I shall tell her about it. I know she will be interested and I’m sure it would remind her of those happy hard working days.
She has very fond memories of Lower Greenbank Farm and often spoke of them; the kindness of Mr and Mrs Kidd to a young girl from Liverpool and Hutton Agricultural College, along with the patience and tutelage of Mr Kidd in the practical aspects of hill sheep farming and all else besides. It stood her in good stead in later years. As is obvious from her story she enjoyed the work, living in the Trough and being part of its local community. She last visited in 1990 prior to leaving for our new life with our sons and their families, here in the USA. It is obvious like your mother she also in the WLA, looked back on those hard working days with much pleasure.
As regards Gwen Baxter you will see the comments from Ann Rossall and whilst I have no personal knowledge it does seem she is the one and the same. I too unfortunately know little of the Drinkall’s and others except to hear Jeanne make mention of them.
The Trough has a special place in Jeanne’s heart and I’m sure she will be happy to know it is substantially unchanged and that you enjoy living there.
Again, my thanks for getting in touch.