Land Girls Celebrated at North Yorkshire Museum
7:00am 31st March 2013
Dame Vera Lynn is one of many supporters of a brand new and exciting exhibition at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming – “Feeding the Nation: A Celebration of the Women’s Land Army, exploring in depth, the life of the land girls during World War II. The Women’s Land Army collections at the museum have national importance and are a great asset to York and the region.
Gillian Cruddas, MBE, Chief Executive of Visit York is supporting the WLA Gallery by formally opening the exhibition on Easter Sunday.
Gillian said “This new exhibition is an excellent way of commemorating the work of the Women’s Land Army during the war. It will provide a fascinating insight into the life of the Land Girls for visitors and I’m delighted to be officially opening the exhibition to the public.”
Esther Graham, Curator at Yorkshire Museum of Farming, said “The museum is honoured that Gillian will be formally opening this exhibition, it is the first for 20 years at the museum and together with a spring clean and revamp of many of the other galleries marks a new era in the life of this unique museum for the region which tells the story of the vital business of farming - that is still a major contributor to the economy of Yorkshire.”
Following interviews with over a dozen women who worked in Yorkshire and farther afield, Esther endeavours to tell the story of what life was like for all those girls who volunteered or were conscripted to help Feed the Nation during the war.
“We were 3 – 4 four weeks from starvation,” says Esther, following her research into the Women’s Land Army, “until Lady Denman and the Women’s Land Army swung into action. They trained and placed on farms up to 80,000 unmarried women in the peak years to work in the place of the men called up to fight”.
The girls came from towns, cities as well as the countryside. As one ex member put it (Muriel Berzin, “Munitions made you yellow, ATS got you pregnant and for the WAAFS you needed education and a posh accent!”
Many had no previous experience of farming or the countryside – one girl Frances, thought “it would be a doddle” – she soon learnt the error of her ways!
To begin with many farmers and their families were unsure and even actively unhappy at the thought of young unmarried and untrained girls coming to work on their farms. There are many cartoons to express their feelings! (see attachment). However, soon the girls settled in and were quick and willing to learn and the farming communities soon learned to appreciate their valuable and strong help.
Many remember with great fondness their time in the Land Army “we were like sisters” said Biddy, in the hostels of a night they embroidered pillowcases for their bottom drawers, told ghost stories, darned their bright green pullovers and wrote letters to loved ones.
“I have learnt so much from these ladies” Esther continues , “how hard they worked – pulling beet and harvesting potatoes, they were versatile too - driving tractors as well as horses and still today have fond memories and many laughs when they meet up to chat about old times.”
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