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Janet Sproat Johnstone

Land Army

During WW2 my mum, Janet Sproat Johnstone and my aunt were both in the Land Army. At the time Janet was working in Patersons, (the grain merchants) taking the orders for the various grain feedstuff over the phone in the office. As the men were called up to go into the services, she then graduated to going out with a small lorry taking and delivering the orders to various farms.

She was called up into the Land Army and was sent to the farm where she’d been born (one of the farm cottages at South Woodhill Farm near Kilmaurs). Once she was there she helped with the milking, the planting of potatoes and corn etc, and stacking the corn after it was cut by a scythe at harvest time. She them took the corn back to the farm by horse and cart for it to go through the threshing machine, which at the time was still driven by steam traction engine. She also worked at the hay and various other chores around the farm and as the season’s work progressed, the ploughing and harrowing with a team of horses.

On one occasion she was going back to the farm after visiting her parents at Stirling Avenue, Bonnyton, Kilmarnock, and had started to walk back up to Fardalehill road towards the farm of the same name. As she walked up she was met by the farm manager whom we later called Uncle Quint. He had come across the grass park from the farm to meet her coming back from the town. He did this because of the mandatory blackout which meant there were no lights for fear of attracting any German pilot’s coming over on a bombing raid.

One day as they met on the road, they both heard the loud of an approaching plane coming overhead. Quickly my mum and Uncle Quint dived into the ditch beside the hedge and took cover. “Quick Jinty, get yersel doon in here…the plane’s nae one of oors, it’s a bloody German!” After waiting for a while till the noise of the engines died away they got up from their hiding place and duly made their way back to the farm. Whereupon my Aunt Jenny made my mum have a restorative drink before packing her off to bed. That particular plane later crashed somewhere between Kilmaurs and Stewarton.

My Aunt Bessie drove a milk float to collect the milk from the farms to the dairy for bottling, bringing in the full milk churns and returning the empties. Sometimes when she was driving back along the Ayr road, she gave the soldiers a lift to the road that led to the Dundonald Camp, not meaning to, but sometimes they would sneak onto the back of the float as she made her way between the town and the various farms.

My Aunt Grace on the other hand was sent to work at a market garden.

My uncle Bill (my mum’s brother) & uncle George (Bessie’s husband) were both in the RAF and my uncle Reynold (my dad’s younger brother) was in the army and over in France. My father, Johnnie Johnstone was in a reserved occupation as he worked as a grain compounder with Patersons. However, he was also on firewatch looking out for incenderies on the roofs of the various town buildings.

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