Land girls and digging for victory; bombs

During this period of the war, although Frankie struggled to control and run a few men, the bigger part of the labour became land girls. Photographs show how many there were at times working on hard physical jobs around the farm.

Land girls in WWII
Land girls clearing mud, with Thomas helping

17/3/41 Apparently when I first began to dig the garden here the consensus of opinion in the village was that I had bitten off more then I could chew. If Molly had not turned up to help this opinion might have been justified but as it is we have now finished the digging here and are turning our attention to the garden at the farm. Mrs Higley said to Nora “Well, I must give those two girls best. They’ve certainly made a good job of that garden”.

22/3/41 This afternoon Molly and I planted 24 black currant and gooseberry bushes.
I may soon have to give up smoking. I should have had to some time go but for Mrs Wheeldon keeping me a special supply and to-day for the first time I hear she has absolutely none in her shop. There are no luxuries now. Hardly any sweets or cigarettes, no fruit at all at the moment, no cheese, only 8 oz of jam a month (luckily we have a good supply), no gum boots (mine have started to let the water in) and so on with almost everything you want. Tho’ we can’t complain — we do pretty well with the farm.

22/3/41 It’s extraordinary how much work I do now. To-day is a good sample. Immediately after breakfast I went up to the farm to have an argument with Carling about the order in which he is sowing the seeds. He is putting the silage crops before the oats and I think it should be the other way round. Then I came back and wrote 38 letters and bills before and immediately after lunch. Then I took these to post. Then I went to see a man about fetching some coke. Then I went to the farm and wheeled down a barrow load of coal to the house as the men are too busy to bring it. Then I took the barrow back and brought down eggs which I took to the Guest House. Then I cam in and did a tricky bit of knitting which has been lying about for weeks. After tea I washed the children’s hair and cut their nails etc. Now I am writing to you and when I have done that I shall read the papers for ½ an hour and then write my book until bedtime. This way of living has one great advantage. The time flies.
27/3/41 Terrific news on the wireless. First of all the capture of Keren and Harrar (East Africa: Eritrea and Abyssinia) in one day which must surely go somewhere near bringing all that to an end. Then the announcement of the coup d’etat in Jugoslavia and the reversal of policy. This last seems wonderful. At last the people of one country have denied the right of a handful of men to decide their fate as they did not wish it to be decided. I hope to God we shall back them up properly.

28/3/41 To-morrow I am going to Moulton for a few days and nights to learn something about pig-keeping.
31/3/41 Moulton I was bored with the idea of coming but now I am rather enjoying it. I went up to the farm this morning at 9 and worked till 1. Then 2 till 6. I have an unfailingly good eye for pigs and have so far never failed to pick the best one out of every bunch I have been shown. This is a good thing and makes it more interesting. It means when we are breeding our own I shall have a reasonable chance of picking the right ones for breeding or fattening.
This morning I mucked out, then put rings into some pigs’ noses — fairly difficult as you can imagine. I successfully managed to do 2 of them. Then we exercised the boars which means going for a walk with one at a time, with a fat stick in your hand and whacking them in the direction you want them to go. Then we mixed a week’s ration and fed all the pigs.

Feeding pigs in WWII
Frankie feeding pigs

This afternoon we fed again, this time me feeding more or less on my own; then I brushed the 4 boars and came in. I rather enjoy it. Whether I should for long is another matter. Here everything is to hand and everything you want exists. At home all is a makeshift and we’ve hardly any room. I had intended to get 2 gilts from here and 2 more from each of the 2 most fashionable herds in England. But these are now fetching from £40 to £60, so I have decided to have 6 gilts from here and buy a boar from one of the other 2 herds.

3/4/41 Our wheat is again a landmark and Mr Lindsay, who came over with me this morning said it was the best he had seen this year.

5/4/41 I finished my book to-day — or at least the structure. The last chapter is some very hot stuff on socialism and I am really pleased with it. Even if on-one else like it I shall keep it to show you.
I am fed up about Benghazi. Oddly enough, the letters I just got from you are full of pleasure about its capture. I am also fed up with the propaganda. Why is it a stronghold with admirable port facilities when we take it and indefensible and with no value as a port when the Germans do? Gosh I’m sick of it all.
However it now seems to have begun again. Yesterday German declared war on Jugoslavia and Greece. One fears the German army and I should like to be sure it is going to be alright.

bomb crater in WWII
Bomb Crater

10/4/41   We had more bombs on the farm again last night. They made enormous craters and mucked an acre. I don’t know how I am going to get all the holes filled up again. I went across that field this morning on my way to the farm. The first thing I saw was a thing exactly like a well but only about half the size in diameter. I went up to it and started peering down it and only then realised suddenly what it was. So it was lucky it didn’t explode there and then. I think it is almost certainly a dud because it was just slung overboard with the other 2 by an aeroplane in a hurry and they both went off at once so I suppose this one was meant to. Coventry have had it very bad 2 nights running.

They say the casualties are as bad as last time and they got the Daimler works. The news is lousy. I wonder if we shall do any good against the Germans. Apparently the chief bomb officer came while Carling and I were both away and said that if the bomb didn’t go off by 2 o’clock (which it didn’t) it probably wouldn’t go off at all. But if it didn’t no-one must go into the field or work it until the bomb had been removed and they were too busy to remove it for 6 weeks. Well, this field is 18 acres and has been manured all over and prepared for roots. In 6 weeks it will be too late. Hell and Damnation!

Another remark the bomb officer made was that he thought it was not an accident but that they were aiming at the buildings which he says would shine in the moonlight and should be camouflaged. I haven’t any money to have them camouflaged. I don’t suppose it could be done under £150, but on the other hand I suppose one has some responsibility to the whole village. O Damn!

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A Woman's War