The Women’s Land Army, often referred to as “The Forgotten Army”, was actually formed in 1917 by Roland Prothero, the then Minister for Agriculture. With 6 million men away to fight in the First World War, Britain was struggling for labour. The government wanted women to get more involved in the production of food and do their part to support the war effort. This was the beginning of the Women’s Land Army.
By March 1940, agriculture in England and Wales had lost over thirty thousand men to the British Army. Another 15,000 had left the land to join other occupations. The severe shortage of labour persuaded the government to reform the WLA in June 1939, and by 1944 there were 80,000 women volunteers working on the land. About a third of the volunteers moved to the countryside from Britain’s industrial cities. The WLA lasted until its official disbandment on October 21, 1950 (59 years ago).
Women in the Land Army wore green jerseys, brown breeches and brown felt slouch hats. They did a variety of jobs and a quarter were involved in milking and general farmwork. The landgirls were also supplied with cheap, second hand battledress once their uniforms wore out. Rubber boots were important items for working on a farm, but with the war shortages, rubber became hard to get. Boots then had to be returned for reconditioning and sold back to the workers at a cheaper price.
Tea with the Queen: The event – held in the Buckingham Palace ballroom on October 21 2009- marked the anniversary of the Women’s Land Army’s (WLA) disbandment 59 years ago.