6 June 1997

Reality of rural work was tough

MEMORIES of life as a member of the Womens Land Army are featured in a well-researched book by Nicola Tyrer and among the contributors is Jean Proctor who features in Farmlife this week.

The WLA must have seemed a healthy outdoor way to help the war effort but life in the countryside came as quite a shock to many of the girls. The reality included rat catching, driving excavators and heavy physical work. Joan Pountney, who worked in Leicestershire, recalls struggling with a 17st sack of wheat fresh from the threshing machine and she only weighed 9st herself. Joan remembers admitting defeat on only one occasion, and this brought a severe ticking-off from her bosses.

Girls who worked in the Timber Corps found themselves weilding 6lb axes, cross-cut saws and chainsaws and walking miles in unfamiliar forests felling trees for pit props, telegraph poles, road blocks, railways sleepers and host of other things.

The memories are good and bad and are a fascinating insight into rural life seen through Land Girls eyes. Every bit as interesting is the history of the movement, the male chauvinism of the day and the political betrayal of an army that was deemed civilian when it was no longer of use.

Women readers will not be suprised at the resourcefulness, adaptability and sheer strength of character of the girls but very glad that working women get far more respect and appreciation today. TG

*They Fought In The Fields, by Nicola Tyrer. Sinclair Stevenson, (£16.99).