Farming and the land girls

George Thompson remembers that in the war farmers got an extra £5 an acre ploughing up grassland to grow potatoes and cabbages, for example: Dunsbury was more a vegetable farm and horticultural rather than agricultural. I started there with old Fred Barnes with a horse. When you dug early potatoes the land girls would pick up the potatoes, then you would go along with the horse and big hay dray and if any potatoes came up from underneath the ground they had to pick up twice.

As George describes, the Land Army girls were an invaluable help. There were about twenty-two young women working at Dunsbury Farm who were tireless in back-breaking jobs such as picking up potatoes behind a tractor.  

At the start, many of them were unused to such hard physical work as Dorothy Higgins, who worked at Dunsbury, later recalled: Cutting cabbage, sometimes in pouring rain, and picking frosty brussel sprouts were some of the less comfortable jobs. We went to many other farms to gather their crops. We were taken on tractor-drawn trailers, causing quite a stir as we went through villages as some of the girls were very lively. 

As a child Myrtle Newbery made friends with the land girls who worked on the Brook Estate: At ‘nammit time’ we used to go round to the harness room where Margaret (Taylor) and Joyce (Phillips) would light the fire and have a drink and something to eat, then they would sing songs to us, like ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ and ‘Wide, Wide is the Ocean…’