Land girls taught me a lot about life

Ms (CRCT) Mary Clements aged 19
Ms (CRCT) Mary Clements aged 19

WHILE the men of Britain were fighting for King and country in the First and Second World Wars, the women made sure there was still food to put on the table.

Mary Clements was one of thousands who joined the Women’s Land Army.

It was set up in 1939 by the government to make the country more self-sufficient and reduce the need for risky imports which were an easy target for enemy attacks.

At it’s peak, the Land Army had more than 80,000 volunteers from different backgrounds.

When the war ended in 1945, the Land Army kept going until 1950 when demobilisation was complete.

Mary left grammar school before she was 16 to care for her mum after she had an accident.

But a year and a half later she signed up to do her bit and became a peacetime land girl.

Mary, now aged 83, said: “I made my mind up I wanted to join the Land Army.

“I told me parents I was either going to join the NAAFI (Navy, Air and Armed Forces Institute) or the Land Army so they agreed I could be a land girl.”

She was sent to Bedford and joined other women ploughing, digging and harvesting.

Mary said: “It was the first time I’d been away from home. The other girls said I was as “green as grass”.

“I really enjoyed it. It was hard and heavy work but the company was brilliant - it taught me a lot about life.”

She spent three years as a peacetime land girl.

Mary, of Stanley, was the only land girl from West Yorkshire to attend the last ever annual march in London from Whitehall to the Cenotaph in October.

She said: “We all enjoyed the day but there was a certain bit of sadness about it because it was the last.

“Every year less and less people came as everyone got older. This year there were a lot more with wheelchairs and walking frames but they still came.”

Despite the contribution the Land Army made, and the Women’s Timber Corp, who were known as Lumber Jills, there is no national monument recognising their efforts.

Mary is backing a campaign by the Women’s Food & Farming Union for a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

She said: “I think it would be a great idea to have a memorial.

“It would be nice to have somewhere to go, where we can all meet up. There is something for all the others not for the Land Army and there should be.”

To find out more about their campaign and how to show your support, log on to www.womenslandarmytribute.co.uk