Long Days and Hard Work
Training and everyday life for members of the WLA
Most women received their initial training in groups, at institutes such as Oaklands Agricultural College in St Albans, or else on specially selected farms. The 2-3 week courses covered all types of farming. Others, less fortunate, received no training- having to learn on the job and through their mistakes. Land Girls had to be mobile and be prepared to go wherever they were needed. They might have been sent to a hostel, from where they were sent out in teams each day to local farms as required or they might have been placed on a farm to fill a permanent vacancy.
Ploughing, planting, weeding, hoeing and muck spreading
By far the greatest demand was for milkers, but Land Girls would also be expected to work in the fields, doing jobs such as ploughing, planting, weeding, hoeing and muck spreading. They helped with the harvesting of potatoes, corn, hay and root vegetables. In winter months there were hedges to trim and ditches to clear out. Specialist jobs included fruit culture, market gardening, driving, pest control (rat catching!) and the timber corps. At first many farmers were sceptical about the Land Girls’ abilities and doubted that women could take the place of men. Experience proved them wrong!
Dances and Cocoa
Working and living conditions varied from place to place, but generally the accommodation was very basic. A typical day for a hostel based Land Girl would involve getting up at 6am for breakfast at 6.30am, make lunchtime sandwiches and tea, then at 7am travel by lorry to the place of work for the day, work until 5.30pm having had a break for lunch in the fields, then return by lorry transport to the hostel. The evening meal would be served at 7pm and this would be followed by recreation time. They might have spent this time writing letters, listening to the radio or to their gramophone records. Some evenings might have been spent at the local pub, and occasional parties were organised, inviting men from nearby campus for a dance. Cocoa was served at 9pm and lights out was at 10.30pm.