Page last updated at 19:27 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 20:27 UK

Queen takes tea with Land Girls


Maureen Bainbridge and Frieda Feetham on having tea with The Queen

Women who helped keep Britain supplied with food and timber during World War II have enjoyed tea with the Queen.

More than 90 veterans - dubbed Land Girls and Lumber Jills - joined Her Majesty, who herself served in the war in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

The event - held in the Buckingham Palace ballroom - marked the anniversary of the Women's Land Army's (WLA) disbandment 59 years ago.

One former dairy maid, Dorothea Allen, told the BBC it was "very nice indeed".

The Duke of Edinburgh, the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Alexandra and Princess Michael of Kent also joined the veterans.

Felling trees

The WLA was set up in June 1939 to help on farms, increase the amount of food grown in Britain and replace male agricultural workers, who were away fighting the war.

At its peak in 1943, there were 80,000 Land Girls who carried out tasks such as hoeing, ploughing, lifting potatoes, lambing and looking after poultry.

There was one admiral who said that, but for the Land Army, we wouldn't have won the war
Jean Procter
British WLA Society chairman

More than 6,000 Lumber Jills also worked in the Women's Timber Corps (WTC), felling trees and running sawmills, supplying the mining industry and aircraft manufacturers.

Mrs Allen said she had loved the work, even though it was physically demanding.

"When you're a dairy maid you have to work outside on the fields as well," she said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it.

"I'd like to be there now, it was just wonderful."

Another Land Girl, Peggy Cannon, told the BBC: "It was men's work, but we were quite fit, we didn't seem to notice it."

Jean Procter, chairman of the British WLA Society, said the Land Girls' contribution was vital.

Prince Philip and former Land Girl Helen Dann
At its peak in 1943, there were 80,000 Land Girls in the UK

"There was one admiral who said that, but for the Land Army, we wouldn't have won the war because he said, 'My army couldn't walk without food.'

"He said, 'If you've no food for the Army, you've no army - [and] no victories."

After the tea Mrs Procter said: "Everybody was thrilled to bits - it was something we never expected would ever happen.

"We've had the recognition we've worked so hard for."

The government presented surviving members of the WLA and WTC with a badge in December 2007, commemorating their service.

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