Page last updated at 16:14 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 17:14 UK

Land Girls receive WWII honours

Women's Land Army recruitment poster
By 1943 some 80,000 women had signed up

The Women's Land Army and Women's Timber Corps have received official recognition for the role they played during World War II.

Fifty of the women - dubbed Land Girls and Lumber Jills - attended a ceremony in Downing Street hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

He thanked the women and conceded that their varied efforts should have been recognised earlier.

More than 30,000 badge applications have been received to date.

The women collected their gift from Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

"We have been slow to thank you. We could have done this years ago but I'm pleased that we can do it now. "We owe you a huge debt of gratitude."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

He said the work the women did during the war was "a story from our history that must be told again and again".

At a ceremony in Downing Street the prime minister thanked each of them individually.

"We have been slow to thank you. We could have done this years ago but I'm pleased that we can do it now," Mr Brown said.

Long campaign

The Land Girls and Lumber Jills have long campaigned for formal recognition of the often gruelling work they did during the war and were delighted when the badges were announced earlier this year.

Former landgirl Mary Vincent: 'We were doing our little bit for the war'

Hilda Gibson, now 83, served with the WLA from 1944 to 1946 and was on hand to collect her badge.

"I think it's a really good idea to create these awards. Everyone had to do their bit during the war and serving my country in its hour of need was a privilege. They were men's jobs we took on, they were heavy jobs and hard work," she said.

Elizabeth Harding, 89, from London, worked on a dairy farm on the Somerset-Dorset border.

She said that getting her badge made up for a missed opportunity during the war.

"The thing that most upset me in the war was that I missed out on seeing the Queen," she said

"Some of us were invited to meet her but I wasn't well on that day, but this makes up for missing out."

Dilys Bullock, 83, also received her badge.

"I volunteered because I wasn't allowed to join any of the other women's corps - my father wouldn't allow me," she said

"It gave me everything in the world - plenty of companions, a good husband and a good family. It was the best time of our lives, we didn't even think about helping the war effort, we just got on with it."

Following Wednesday's events, women who served, from across the UK, will be sent their badges and a certificates.

Joan Randolph (nee Bartlett)

The Women's Land Army was first formed in WWI but then disbanded in 1918. It was re-formed in 1939 and disbanded again in 1950. The Women's Timber Corps was set up in 1942.

Women were called upon to help in agriculture as male workers went to fight in the war, and by the peak year of 1943 some 80,000 were serving.

They worked on farms and estates, milking cows, digging ditches, making hay, sowing seeds and harvesting crops, to help alleviate food shortages.

The Lumber Jills worked in forests to provide timber for the war effort, felling trees, cutting timber and sharpening saws.

With war hampering the transport of food around the world, civilians were also encouraged to "dig for victory" during the war, and arable land increased in are by 63% between 1939 and 1944.

Statue to 'lumberjills' unveiled
10 Oct 07 |  Tayside and Central
Commendation for WW2 'Land Girls'
06 Dec 07 |  UK Politics

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