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Amelia Gertrude Bell

Women's Land Army

from:Highburyn, London

I was 20 at outbreak of war in Sept.1939. My childhood sweetheart was quickly sent to Belgium as he was in the Territorial Army. He came home on a leave in April 1940 and we got married. We had five days together & he had to rejoin his regiment in Lille, Belgium. He was killed on the beaches of Dunkirk during the evacuation on May 28th 1940.

The Blitz began in Sept & my home was blown up by a landmine. Moved to a flat also in Highbury & that too was damaged. I decided to get out of town so I went for a weekend stay with friends in Northamptonshire where I met up with a farmer berating the government because they had taken his farm workers as soldiers. He said he'd been offered a land army girl "what use would she be?" I asked him if he would take me on (not having ever been on a farm in my life) & he said he would.

I returned to London, went to WLA HQs & said I would volunteer if I could go where I wanted. They said OK. That's how I started, in Northamptonshire, but this farmer turned out not to be of the best, he treated me as if I was male labour & I was working from 6am to 10pm on haymaking, harvesting, milking, foddering, muck carting etc. He sent me into the bull's pen to clean him out, a vicious looking animal, but for me, ignorance was bliss & I just pushed him around whilst cleaning the floor, even tweaking the ring in his nose! I had even been careful to shut the door so that he couldn't get out! He didn't touch me.

He sent me up the fields to shepherd the sheep, not telling me there was a ram amongst them, but I soon found out when it butted me. One day he sent me with a scythe to cut the nettles down, how I ever came out of that with both legs I'll never know!!

Fortunately after 2 months a WLA rep. came & promptly decided I should never be working under those conditions & I left that farm, but luckily I was taken on by another very nice farmer in the area. Even he sent me on the errand of getting a horse out of another farmer's field - as notified by the local postman - the horse, an ex-hunter, was frolicking with the mares there. Off I went, with a bowl of cowcake which I knew he liked with all the confidence in the world, but old Jack knew differently, having managed to get his head harness on & leading him to the break in the hedge he had got through, he promptly threw his head up, I went flying & off he galloped back to the mares - I swear he was laughing. But I didn't give up I tried again but no way, he just wouldn't budge this time & I had to return without him.

Yes, it was hard work but I have never regretted it. My experiences were quite something, for a town girl, but as we all did, I got down to it. If I had my time again, I would have rather gone in with a crowd of other girls in billets, more fun & help, but it all worked out well, I was in with very good local people & eventually married a local chap. I found too that the locals accepted me very well as I was a worker amongst them, often helping other farmers when needed. I only had to retire upon the birth of my daughter, but afterwards still went on helping the locals. I am now nearly 90 years of age, have got my badge etc. not in the best of health but battling on.

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