Women's Land Army

Thu, Jan 11th 2024 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Clare Williams speaker


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11th January 2024 the Women’s Land Army Clare Wilkins

Clare started with a quote from the WLA song:

“To the farms and fields, we must go” So together with the Women’s Timber Core they kept food production and agriculture in order.  From 1939 to 1950 the WLA employed 200 000 women and from 70% imported food originally, they reduced it to 40% by 1943, despite the Nazi’s attempts to prevent supplies to the UK. They were paid 28 shillings for a 48-hour week paid by the farmers, compared with men at 38 shillings.

Lady Gertrude Denman  was chairman of the National Federation of the Women’s Institutes was asked to set up the WLA in 1938. Women came forward, mainly from the ‘working class. Clare based her talk on Joan Bottomore, pictured with her sister, Betty.

Joan was born in Hyson Green in 1921 and she worked in a hosiery factory and her father was a tobacconist. She and her sister wanted to make their contribution to the war effort and selected the Navy, but their office was closed, so as the WLA Office was close by, that’s where they finished. They were designated to a farm about 2.5 miles from Bingham, living with the Farm manager and his wife.  They had to be up at 06.30 every day, starting work at 07.00, looking after calves and various jobs with potatoes, wheat, barley. For relaxation they borrowed bikes and cycled into Bingham, listened to the radio, but went home at the weekend to do laundry. A Hostel was then provided on Tythby Road, consisting of 3 Nissen Huts to home 40 to 50 women.  Things were more sociable then, singing around the piano, or other music, organising whist drives.  They also went out in the village. The Hostel curfew was 10pm.There were about 10 airfields and an army camp around the area. There was a small Italian POW camp at the bottom of the road to Saxondale. Prisoners also worked on the land.  There is a newspaper report that 25 of the women went on strike because of a lack of heating in the Hostel. They got the bus to Nottingham. The situation was resolved. In 1944 Joan says that there was ‘an air of expectancy’. American forces were stationed at Langar from 1943 in the run up to D Day and would have suddenly left as 6th June 1944 approached. On VE day 8 May 1945 when at a dance at the army camp on Nottingham Rd, the Commanding Officer announced the end of war. Joan says that there was jubilation then ‘work had to continue’. Joan worked till VJ Day in August 1945.

 On 7 December the Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, who was the patron of the WLA, held a party for 250 of the earliest volunteers to the WLA at The Mansion House. In her tribute she said ‘in the Battle for Freedom and through your endurance and your toil, you supplied the needs of the Island and sustained the life of the nation.’

Jane delivered a glowing Vote of Thanks to Clare, saying that the story of Joan was quite intriguing and we have all learnt more about the WLA, but wonder how women of today would cope with a similar situation? The members joined Jane in the normal round of appreciation.      AR

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