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.