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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 07:41 GMT
Formal award for WWII Land Girls
Wartime Land Girls
Thousands of women worked the land during World War II
Women who worked the land during World War II to keep Britain supplied with food and timber can now apply for a badge commemorating their efforts.

The badge is the first official recognition of the contribution made by members of the Women's Land Army (WLA) and the Women's Timber Corps (WTC).

Members of the WLA - also known as the Land Girls - and the WTC have campaigned for recognition for decades.

Ex-Land Girl Hilda Gibson, 83, said the badge was a "powerful gesture".

They were men's jobs we took on, they were heavy jobs and hard work
Hilda Gibson
Former Land Girl

Badges will be awarded to surviving members of the WLA and WTC, but not to spouses or families of deceased members, except where death has occurred after 6 December 2007.

That was the date the government made the announcement of the plans for formal recognition.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "This badge is a fitting way to pay tribute to their determination, courage and spirit in the face of adversity. I hope that as many eligible women as possible will apply for one."

Hard work

Mrs Gibson, of Huddersfield, worked first in pest control in Lincolnshire and then on a poultry farm in Norfolk, where she had to feed and muck out thousands of birds.

"They were men's jobs we took on, they were heavy jobs and hard work. I wanted a job that was important and I felt that it was," she said.

"It's taken a long time coming, but you can't blame that on anybody."

The badge was a "powerful and touching gesture to thank us for what we did", she added.

Jean Proctor, a former land army girl and chairwoman of the British Women's Land Army Society, told BBC Radio 5 Live the recognition would mean a lot to Land Girls and their families.

"We have campaigned all this time.... we have got recognition in a lot of places ... and now this badge will be absolutely the icing on the cake."

Mary Mower, 79, from Wandsworth, London, was a Land Girl based near Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire, and spent time pruning apple trees and doing other agricultural work such as hoeing.

"The fellows were away on the ships, or fighting or flying and our work was one of those things that did help," she said.

Mrs Mower said she thought the badge was "a very nice thought" that would be welcomed by the surviving women who had been in the WLA and the WTC.

Poor conditions

"The thought that they are being appreciated will make a lot of difference," she said.

Women's Land Army, Essex, 1941
The WLA had 80,000 members in 1943 and existed until 1950

Land Girls helped run farms and feed the nation on the Home Front while men were fighting in the war.

They undertook work - including milking, harvesting, lambing and ploughing - which was often hard, with long hours, poor conditions and low pay.

There was a strong sense of patriotism and camaraderie.

"I enjoyed my time there and the amount of friends I made was very good," said Mrs Mower.

At its peak in 1943, there were 80,000 members of the WLA and the organisation remained in existence until 1950.

The 6,000 women in the WTC - nicknamed the Lumberjills - felled trees and ran sawmills to provide timber for the war effort.

Former members of the WLA and WTC can apply for a badge through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Applications forms can be obtained via the Defra website or by calling 08459 335577.

SEE ALSO
Statue to 'lumberjills' unveiled
10 Oct 07 |  Tayside and Central
Commendation for WW2 'Land Girls'
06 Dec 07 |  UK Politics
Land Girls' medal for war effort
22 Sep 06 |  Isle of Man
Photo sparks land girl's memories
21 Jun 05 |  South East Wales

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