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Doreen "Bobby" Gill
Women's Land Army
from:Acocks GreenIn 1940 I joined the W.L.A. only because I was too young for the armed forces. After threshing, hoeing and muck spreading I became a trifle disenchanted with the Land Army until I saw a note of the hostel board asking for volunteers for 'Cub-Excavating'. I immediately volunteered thinking it was to help rescue baby fox cubs. Imagine my astonishment when I found I was to drive an 8.1/2 ton excavator - and what's more I had to start it with a starting handle!! The object of the operation was to reclaim land for agriculture. Together with two other land girls and living in a gipsy style caravan we cleared and straightened many rivers thus allowing them to flow smoothly and for the land to drain again for cultivation. We worked with either 20 Italian or German P.O.W.'s who were accompanied with a 'ganger' and a very old guard, who both seemed to spend their time sleeping! It was hard work, but we worked hard and we played hard and we wouldn't have swapped the job for anything. One of the advantages was that we always seemed to be working near an Air Force camp and so were invited to their dances etc. I met my late husband at one of them - so it had its compensations!
My mum Helen Vickers born in 1924 also operated a cub excavator in the Northumberland borders. She recalled the Italian pows and how sentimental they all were but that the Germans were organised and kept their military bearing. She met my dad Stan Aniolkowski at a dance in Kelso that the free Polish soldiers went to. She received the commemorative badge and sadly recently passed away. Despite operating an excavator she never learned to drive. Maybe one of the two other girls Doren knew was my mum.Frank Aniolkowski
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