11 Jun 2014
In June Ian Everest joined us for his talk, The Women's Land Army - A Sussex Connection. Ian, a previous manager at Newhaven Fort and Town Clerk is now a local historian and his talk was inspired by his Mother's experiences as a Land Girl in WW2.
Initially Ian highlighted the Land Army was first raised in WW1. As men rushed to war, farm workers volunteered, imagining relief from the long, hard working day and by 1915 300,000 had signed up. As only one third of food was home-grown and with the ever increasing threat of U-boats to merchant shipping, working the land was vital towards the war effort. The land girls were poorly paid, initially attracting women from middle-class families who could afford to subsidize them. By October 1919 when they were stood down there were some 23,000 Land Girls.
In April 1939, on the brink of war, the decision was taken to reform the Land Army. Gertrude Denman was once again called upon and took up the position of Director. The women were called upon to perform all farming tasks, including catching rats!
At the end of the war they numbered 83,000 and were not officially disbanded until 1950.
It was not until 2000 that the Land Army were invited to take their place at the National Service of Remembrance and in 2008 they were formally recognised with a badge of honour being awarded to surviving members.
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