Friday, 1 October 2010

What's in a name?

There is a reason behind the title of my blog. I am enamoured by the real life stories of women who served in both world wars and how they changed, not only as women, but also helped to shape the nation I now belong to. And, to me, none deserves more recognition than The Women's Land Army.

Often called the "Forgotten Army", beginning in 1915, but not being officially recognised until 1917, disbanding and reamerging in 1939 ending with over 80,000 members in 1944, I feel that they played a monumental part in helping us emerge victorious from both World Wars. The Land Girls helped keep the country fed. Albeit not full  - but a darn sight less hungry than they would have been. There is "Blitz Spirit", granted, but I don't believe we would have stood the pressure for very long if we did not have the food to sustain us. And we would not have had it without the WLA.

Perhaps it is my spirituality that guides me in my interest of these women? There is nothing like working the land and spending all day on it.  And, as a pagan, being close to nature, being immersed in it, is key to me feeling connected. So, maybe that it why I was drawn to a landgirl inspired look when I first began to change my style about a year or so ago. I could look "vintage" whilst fully capable of trundling round vast National Trust estates of a Sunday afternoon. I now own more headscarves than I care to admit to.

I chose an LG inspired look for my "day" outfit for Vintage
The image of the Land Girl is, to me, an enduring one -  an iconic one almost, especially the knotted headscarf and breeches. Rosey cheeked and scoffing pie made by a "Ma Larkin" looking farmers wife after a backbreaking day potato picking, then whizzing off to a local dance, is a thought that makes me smile and fall a little bit more in love with the era. But it was not all tinned peaches and mock cream. Some girls were incredibly lonely, mistreated by farm staff or, at worst, advanced on by POW's or farm hands with less than honurable intentions. 

My interest, if not obsession (that's probably more apt), came to a head this year when I grasped the wholly grail. A real life Land Girl, or Land Granny as she is now, who was at the 65th VE Day celebrations on May 8th. Meeting this delightful woman is one of my personal highlights.

I was fortunate enough to see a play called "Lillies on the Land" in the summer. It only had a short 6 week season, but it was an educational, heartwarming and funny play - produced from the real letters of veteran Land Girls. I, for one, am thankful to the production team for sourcing and corrolating this body of work into a delightful play. And for me, sitting in a room of actual Land Girls was an unforgetable experience.

Books on the subject are few and far between -  but there are some out there if you feel so inclined. I realise my geeky history books might not be up everyones street.

But there was a film starring Rachel Weisz and Anna Friel in the late 90's, which was based on the novel by Angela Huth which is worth a view

As the people who endured this inspiring age pass on, I fear that the deeds of an already titled "Forgotten Army" will become just that. Perhaps spare a thought for the "Lillies of the Land" each time you don your red lippy and pin your perfectly tied headscarf over your victory rolls and remember how they helped ensure Woolton instead of "Ginger the Cat" Pie was served.

Which women of the era inspire you the most?


  1. One of my nans was a land girl (the other was women's airforce), and got sent up to work in Norfolk. I think she got her brooch when they were issued within the past few years.

    It's hard not to admire women in from WWII, they did so much to hold things together, although the Suffragettes are also a big inspiration to me.

  2. Your geeky books are right up my street!

  3. I admire the women on the home front immensely. My great grandmother lost their house on the first day of the blitz, and had to sleep on a friend's floor with her two children who weren't evacuated until she was found alternative accomodation. The lost everything - they lived behind Canada Quay on the south side of the river - and incendiaries burnt the lot to the ground, and also provided a nice guiding light for the night bombers. On VE day they didn't put a single flag out, they had to wait until VJ day because the second eldest son was sent to Burma in 1942. They were bombed out twice more before the war was over. Her 14 year old niece was killed by a bomb as she waited for a train to take her to her evening munitions factory job, and her daughter, my great aunt, lost her fiance and didn't utter a word for three years. She still wears her engagement ring to this day. I can't comprehend how my great nan managed to hold the family and herself together through all those years of the war.x

  4. Thanks for the comments gals!

    Mim - Yes - I shall be posting on the Suffragette movement soon - its in draft at the moment :) Come back and have a read!

    TCG - hurrah! another geeky book geek!

    LC - The great aunt who didn't speak for 3 years is enough to choke anyone. But to still be wearing her engagement ring today? I will confess it made me sob with sorrow for her and also warmed by how much she must have loved him -and to some degree still does. Thanks for sharing!

    C x

  5. Thank you for your lovely comment...You truly looked the part in your photo.

  6. Another one to add to the geeky book library- 'Land Girl, a manual for volunteers in the Womens Land Army' by W.E. Shewell-Cooper

    It was one of the best selling books in 1941

    They are my inspiration in life, and you are also.



I'd love to hear what you think so feel free to comment away!


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