Malhamdale Local History Group    





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Land Girls outside Settle hostel. L-R Frances Joyner, Dorothy Stead, Dorcas Ford, Joyce Allot. They are wearing Utility Clothing introduced in 1941 to keep clothing costs down.

Ploughing competitions were organised to test their skills. Dora Varley (nee Watson) won the ploughing competition or the Skipton depot at Aireville Park 1944. Read Dora's wartime memories.

Land Girls and War Ag workers outside the tractor shed at Airton.
L-R back : Charlie Stapleton,  Bob Martin,  Ronald Ashworth,  Fred Reeves. L-R front : Phyllis Larrard, Lily Hall, Dorothy Stead, Edgar Milner.

Problems for this Land Army girl with a spirited Malhamdale porker!

The Skipton Land Army hostel on Shortbank Road.

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Malhamdale at War

Women's Land Army

The WLA was formed as a means of providing labour on the farms at a time when a huge increase in food production was needed and farm workers were few, many having left the land in the lean years between the wars, and others had gone into the Forces. Some of the girls had never had any experience of farm work and came from all walks of life, so to exchange a warm city office for lifting potatoes on a cold wet morning on a dales farm, must have been quite a culture shock!


The girls wore a uniform consisting of cord breeches, knee-length stockings, a long sleeved fawn shirt for best with a brown greatcoat and soft brown hat. For work they were issued with bib and brace dungarees, short sleeved shirts and a green pullover, with black working boots or Wellingtons.


Some of the girls lived in directly on the farms whilst others lived in hostels. There was one such hostel in Skipton up Shortbank Road. It consisted of two single storey brick buildings with a dormitory block to sleep 40. There was another purpose built hostel in Settle where the Mill Close housing is today and it was girls from this hostel who normally worked in the Malhamdale area. The work was organised by War Ag (War Agricultural Executive Committee) and the girls worked alongside other War Ag employees, travelling to wherever they were required sometimes by bicycle and sometimes by truck or van.

The work was hard and they didn't do it for the money, as the pay not over generous. It was standardised in June 1943 to £2 5s per week (50 hours) with overtime at 1s 1d per hour and 1s 4d per hour for working Sundays or Bank Holidays.


The girls did ploughing, pulling turnips, picking potatoes, helping with hay time, harvest and threshing, in fact any job that needed extra labour and tractors and machinery, as most dales farms were not equipped for the type of farming which they were forced to follow in the war years. Freda Bullock, who normally worked in the Bentham area, remembers spending one extremely hot day at Lee Gate farm on Malham Moor clearing stones from the ground ready for cultivation.


The tractors with metal spiked wheels could not be driven on the roads so had to be transported to the farms from the depot on the back of a trailer towed by a tractor with rubber tyres. Behind this trailer the tractor also towed a fuel trailer, and at harvest time, a reaper/binder as well, making a very long and difficult outfit to drive. The Land Girls who drove these were referred to as ‘flyer drivers’. Gates were often too narrow to accommodate the machinery and gateposts had to be removed.


Ploughing competitions were organised to provide some interest and test skill. In one such competition in 1944, Dora Varley (nee Watson) won the Land Army Employees class at Aireville and went on to become the runner up at the county finals at Wetherby. Read Dora's wartime memories.


For land girls such as Veronica Fletcher (nee Fell) who lived either at home or on the farm where they worked, the day to day work was more general including milking, feeding and looking after stock and horses, but the contribution they all made to the running of the farms was immense and despite the hard work, most seemed to enjoy the complete change of lifestyle and the camaraderie. Read Veronica's wartime memories.


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