Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE LAND GIRLS of WW II


It is fitting that we set aside Memorial Day to honor those who fought bravely and unselfishly in preserving freedom. Their stories fill us with gratitude. There is, however, a story, seldom told but truly remarkable, one that was vital to our success in World War II.  



It is the story of 
THE WOMEN'S LAND ARMY



Picture from the 1998 movie THE LAND GIRLS

 

We often think of "Rosie the Riveter" as the icon for the American women's contribution to the war, but in addition to those efforts there was an army of three million women who served on the agricultural front in the United States and in England. 



With so many men gone, the workforce on farms was small and food was getting scarce. Young women flocked to the country, ensuring "Freedom from Want" at home while our soldiers were fighting for victory abroad.



In the UK, Lady Trudie Denman convinced the agricultural board to set up radio broadcasts, calling for young able women to leave their city lives and move to the country to work the land. By 1944 there were over 80,000 young girls who responded. The majority were "country girls" but over a third came from London and industrial cities of northern England.




The American recruits were mostly high school and college students. They worked long hours driving tractors, tending crops, harvesting, catching rats, milking cows, raising live stock and even shearing sheep. 

Most farmers initially opposed women working their land. Out of necessity those in the Midwest and South yielded, employing hundreds of thousands. Those in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains resisted and suffered great agricultural and financial losses. 


THEIR UNIFORMS
 
2 short sleeved shirts
1 green pullover
2 pairs of socks
1 pair of shoes
1 bib and brace overall
1 hat
1 pair of rubber boots
1 long (very thin!) Mackintosh for the winter



At 25 to 40 cents an hour, money was not the attraction. They came to support the war effort and in the end they proved themselves an indispensable brigade of hard workers. 







Our GI's may have won the war but the women
 "kept the home fires burning"


WOMEN'S LAND ARMY SONG
(Women's Lad Army Song)
Back to the land, we must all lend a hand.
 To the farms and the fields we must go.
There's a job to be done,
Though we can't fire a gun
We can still do our bit with the hoe...
Back to the land, with its clay and its sand,
Its granite and gravel and grit,
You grow barley and wheat
And potatoes to eat
To make sure that the nation keeps fit...
We will tell you once more
You can help win the war
If you come with us - back to the land