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Life for a Londoner in the Land Army

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My mother Eileen joined the Women's Land Army in June 1940. Her writings – public and private – give an insight into what life was like for a nineteen-year-old Londoner thrown into farm work in Somerset. An article by Eileen was carried in the December 1941 edition of "The Land Girl" Her article in "The Land Girl" painted a generally happy picture of her time but her later reminiscences revealed the loneliness of the city girl neither accepted by the farm workers or the farmers themselves – especially when she was placed on a farm in Street, where she commented “I worked for a bully”. I have put together the following from notes in an old exercise book that I found when clearing her house about her first month’s “training” in Erdington, Somerset: Everything was old and in need of repair at "Burnt House Farm". A disaster had struck it long ago and the present tenant, Mr Yatton, seemed content to include himself in the farm's ill fortune. Mild,

Alone in Pevensey - Mum's memories in poetry

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My Mum left a series of poems and prose about her wartime life.  In one album she writes, "my life as a mechanic is isolated. At RAF Pevensey in 1945, I am discovered by Jerry Ford".  Her poem says much more: Pevensey Blues An ignorant girl Stood in a swamp and stared. A black man on a bicycle saw the girl in the middle of the marsh and stopped. Hi! The girl believed she was invisible and did not hear. Hi! Nonchalant, admiring, he waited. Caltha palustris, shining, glabrous, held her in thrall. She learned words like this from a little book. She always carried a book to help her in her ignorance. She stared at the king-cup, golden-eyed, unwinking. Hi!      He approached. Being a polite sort of girl she went to enquire if  something was the matter And thus began a conversation. At Eastbourne, sprawled at ease on a bed of pebbles He potted seagulls Laughed uproariously when she remonstrated. At home, he said, they ate little birds, Killed them with stones, And laugh, right from

Letters from 'Third Man' Vienna - fact, not fiction (1945)

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Eileen’s brother, my Uncle Bert, joined the RAF, leaving Auntie Gwen to run the flower shop in West London. After initial training, Bert was told he wasn’t fit to fly but became a radio operator and was posted to North Africa. A chirpy Londoner, Bert sent a series of letters and cards as his units travelled across North Africa and then through Italy. He finished his military service in Vienna in November 1945, just as the post-war election was taking place. These were two last letters he sent before returning to London: 09/11/45 HQ, Royal Air Force, Vienna (Austria), C.M.F. Dear Eileen I have been in Vienna about four days and am very happy with the whole situation. This posting is the one that should have come through to TAF in May. Our old S.O. is here and was quite pleased to see us. All the installing of equipment has been some of course and the duties for which we were posted, Reuters receivers, have been filled by Austrian civilians. Two of my old

Ending the war in Italy (1945)

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Eileen’s brother, my Uncle Bert, joined the RAF, leaving Auntie Gwen to run the flower shop in West London. After initial training, Bert was told he wasn’t fit to fly but became a radio operator and was posted to North Africa. A chirpy Londoner, Bert sent a series of letters and cards as his units travelled across North Africa and then through Italy. 16/2/45 Dear Eileen I am afraid I have been rather a long time answering your letter, the first one you wrote from your new address, but I have been on the move. I have left my mountain home and am now in a climate so much milder that we shall be sunbathing very shortly. The climate is not the only change, we are living in comfortable billets in town, the same one that I spent my leave in last summer. It has the atmosphere of a peacetime town in many ways. There is no blackout and everything is just so. In our billets shoes have to be polished and left in a certain place under the bed for inspection every day togeth