The Women’s Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organisation created in 1917 during World War I so women could work in agriculture. It was revived from the disbanded World War One organisation in 1939 so that it could again organise women to replace workers called up to the military. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as Land Girls. In effect the Land Army operated to place women with farms that needed workers, the farmers being their employers. They picked crops and did all the jobs that the men had done. Notable members include Joan Quennell, later a Member of Parliament.
As the prospect of war became increasingly likely, the government wanted to increase the amount of food grown within Britain. To grow more food, more help was needed on the farms and so the government started the Women’s Land Army in July 1939. Though under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, it was given an honorary head – Lady Denman. At first it asked for volunteers. This was supplemented by conscription, so that by 1944 it had over 80,000 members.
Inez Jenkins, who had served as Lady Deman’s assistant director during the establishment of the WLA served as Chief Administrative Officer until 1948. The last Chief of the WLA was Amy Curtis. The WLA lasted until its official disbandment on 30th November 1950.
The majority of the Land Girls already lived in the countryside but more than a third came from London and the industrial cities of the north of England. A separate branch was set up in 1942 for forestry industry work, officially known as the Women’s Timber Corps and with its members colloquially known as “Lumber Jills” – this was disbanded in 1946.
In 1943, during World War II, Amelia King was refused work because she was black. The decision was overturned after being raised in the House of Commons by her MP, Walter Edwards.
In December 2007, following campaigning by former Land Girl Hilda Gibson, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that the efforts of the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Timber Corps would be formally recognised with the presentation of a specially designed commemorative badge to the surviving members. The badge of honour was awarded in July 2008 to over 45,000 former Land Girls.
In October 2012, the Prince of Wales unveiled the first memorial to the WLA of both World Wars, on the Fochabers estate in Moray, Scotland. The sculpture was designed by Peter Naylor. In October 2014, a memorial statue to the Women’s Timber Corps and both incarnations of the Women’s Land Army was unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England. (Wikipedia)