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Marion Gardner

Land Army

Marion Gardner on the left

I joined the Womens Land Army in May 1940 and in January 1944 I was sent to work on an 18 acre small holding at Ewell. In the early summer, as it was so hot, we decided to start work at 5.30am so that we could cut the cabbages from the fields, weigh them and bag them ready for market before the sun was too hot to spoil them.

We used to count the RAF planes going over in formation wo Europe, when they returned we counted them again, to see how many were missing. On a glorious June morning, with blue skies and sunshine, wave after wave of planes went over. We counted them as usual and guessed that something important was happening. Hours later we heard them returning, some planes were "limping" home with damaged engines and some were missing. We thought of the lost brave men. Were they killed or injured or prisoners and we stood in silence with our thoughts. It was June 6th 1944 and we learned that it was D-Day - the invasion of Europe.

Soon after the flying bombs started they were nicknamed "Doodlebugs" (an American flying beetle). They were terrifying and we would hear the roar of the engine and see flames coming from the back of the plane as it came over us, then silence as the engine stopped and down it came and exploded. We were issued with tin hats and instructions to this lying down!!! which was all we could do having no sort of shelter in open fields.

The flying bombs came over from June till September night and day. Then the V2 rockets started. There was no warning sign, only a dreadful explosion as the rocket propelled bomb hit the ground. During this time we were harvesting a neighbours wheat, the machine cut and tied the bundles of corn. My friend and I "stooked" it was standing four sheaves together to be threshed next day, removing the corn from the stalks. We had lovely straight rows of stooks down the field, until a doodlebug came over. Then we fell down flat and got up a bit shaky so the line wavered. At that time we had "double summer time" so it was light enough to work till 11pm while getting the harvest in.

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