Land Girls honoured at reunion event

THEY were the unsung heroes who helped keep Britain going during the Second World War.And yesterday, the world of the 1940s was brought back to life in the heart of Bury St Edmunds in honour of the girls of the Women's Land Army (WLA).

Laurence Cawley

THEY were the unsung heroes who helped keep Britain going during the Second World War.

And yesterday, the world of the 1940s was brought back to life in the heart of Bury St Edmunds in honour of the girls of the Women's Land Army (WLA).

More than 30 women who served in the WLA joined the mayor of St Edmundsbury Margaret Charlesworth for a reception by the War Memorial in Angel Hill before taking a lap of honour around the town in restored vintage vehicles. For many it was the first time they had met up with other former Land Army girls for a reunion.

Among them was Edna Butcher who served at RAF Lakenheath during the war. It was a time she remembers fondly.

“It was good. We had a lot of good girls and we were all young and beautiful back then. This is the first reunion I've been to,” she said. “It was hard work but we used to get to go to dances when we were not working.”

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Pam Tuffs, of Beck Row, was stationed at a variety of locations during the war before being posted to RAF Lakenheath.

She said life in the WLA was tough at first but the girls quickly “acclimatised” to it.

“We had to wear those leather boots that the gentlemen wear and we had no rubber gloves or anything like that. But once you got used to it was good,” she said. “We had a reunion a couple of years ago in Bury St Edmunds but each time they hold a reunion the number turning up sadly gets smaller each time.

“It is a lovely day for it and the vehicles are all part of that. I will enjoy it hugely - as long as none of the cars break down and we have to get out and push it.”

Eileen Sargeant, of Boxford, joined the Land Army just after the end of the Second World War. Her work involved working in a dairy and driving a Ferguson tractor.

“The dairy farm I worked at was one of the first to have milking machines - it was wonderful. And as far as the tractor goes, it was during a time when we didn't have to worry about having a licence.”

Speaking about the reunion, Mrs Charlesworth said: “I am extremely pleased to have had this opportunity to pay tribute on behalf of St Edmundsbury to the many women who contributed so effortlessly to the war effort.”

After their parade through the town, the women were driven to Great Whelnetham to meet other former members of the Women's Land Army at a vintage car and tractor rally there.

Women's Land Army fact file:

The Land Army was set up in 1915 by the Board of Agriculture - by the end of 1917 more than 260,000 women were working as farm laborers.

By the end of the Second World War there were 80,000 members of the WLA.

The WLA was disbanded in 1950.

In December last year, the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the efforts of the surviving members of the Women's Land Army and the Women's Timber Corps would be formally recognized with the presentation of a specially designed commemorative badge.

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