The Women’s Land Army in Sussex

The Women’s Land Army in Sussex
The speaker, born in Bishopstone, the son of a land girl from Tottenham and a Sussex Farmer, showed pictures of his farming family (on the paternal side) and described them as “Always the servants, never the masters”.
From Bishopstone.
Mum from Tottenham joined the Land Army.

That’s the speaker in his mother’s arms. 
What a wonderful life the Land Army would be:

Working on the land isn’t new to women:

Late 1800s women working on the farm.
August 1914 : War
1914: recruitment, many of the men were farm workers, estate workers and forestry workers with pour wages and little chance to break away. This was an opportunity for these young fit men. 

300,000 men had left the farms by Autumn 1915.
The farming year 1914

we only grew a third of what we needed.

Chance had brought a bad harvest?
1915 : 1,500

1916 : 3,700 
Local Sites in Lewes : indicative of where the food came from:

The Home and Colonial Store

The International Store

(Photographs courtesy of Reeves Archive).
Story of Mrs Venus of the Buckle

Had been a domestic pay working in munitions went up four-fold.
Many women’s attempts to get women to come forward.

Very middle class as girls got pocket money and clothing.
1917 agriculture put on a war footing.
Muriel Turbot
Clothing: Ms C S Peel – How we lived then ( 1914-1918)
2 pairs of boots

2 pairs of gaiters

1 pair of clogs (why clogs as well as boots?)

3 pairs of overalls

2 pairs of breaches

2 hats

1 Jersey

1 Mackintosh
Milking, making hay, 
Hay made. 

The forage department of the Woman’s Land Army.

Taken to Newhaven.

(Men writing home must have been closely aware of the means by which women could provide for themselves – nothing is said of child care though).

Elephants put to work – for a laugh.
IMAGE: Celebration of Land Army in front of the Lewes Courts

(Reeves archive indicating that it was a group photo taken after the Great War).
WW1 : 2 million woman had taken the roles of men.
21 years later …
April 1939 about how to feed the country.
Reform the Woman’s Land Army

Gertrude Denman.
She knew and had the respect of many people.

The perfect person to be asked.

21st mansion, 3000 acres, 200 cottages … 

Always campaigning …
There is little point in having a title and a fortune other than to do some good.
Chairman : The Countess De La Warr, Hon. Mrs Burrell.
History of Plumpton College

East Sussex School of Agriculture – given over entirely to training women.
See image with Countess at the far right.
See image
The war for wheat

See image – painting. Walk down from Friston.
Tens of thousands of tractors came over from the US.
Sussex – fourth highest no. of Land girls 


Character to adapt

Go anywhere

Application Form.

Form of undertaking.
Land Girl book – bought from WH Smith

(What stock of books did W H Smith carry?)
Heaving with men and women going off …
4 London girls age 18

Had had, until this moment, a fortnight out to Southend.

Land Army Office in Mantall House, 166 High Street.

Claimed they had known each other all their loves.

Down to Newhaven.

Get off …

Needed accommodation … lodged with frames and farm workers,

Some with a widow.
One bed

A privy down the garden

Her fittest – and she had to empty it onto the celery patch.
700 hostels around the countryside.
Rotten Row House

Financial Centre for the war effort

War agricultural effort.

Lewes was the focus for farming in East Sussex.
Gracie Fields

Had a house In Peacehaven.

Hostels like boarding schools.
Did everything.

Girls have proven themselves in WW1.

As war progressed tractors arrived.
Blackcap Farm at Firle.

Taken over.
Huge mechanisation to get wheat harvested and stored.
Pest control 
Trained to be rat exterminators.

Women – 24 shillings

Men 63 shillings 
Hours : until the stars came out.
84,000 women
Lady Denman asked for parity for the Land Army.
Release certificate – given a piece of paper.
Many met their future husband.
2000 Land army veterans finally allowed to take part in cenotaph celebrations.
Retired to Sussex


Badge : December 2007
His mother had tea at Buckingham Palace
Opened Newhaven Fort in 1988.
Still a tradition
An enthuSiatic, packed talk.


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