Jane in the Land Army – 1

I can’t remember if I told you about my mother’s Land Army experiences, so I’ll assume you can’t either. If I’m repeating myself, I apologise – but then there are stories she told many times herself, which is the only reason I remember them. I do know I’ve said some of this – but this is a way of escape from our current difficult times. To previous difficult times, but that’s another matter.

Jane was still at school when the War started. Al was saying to me today, how sorry he was that Squiffany’s 15th birthday was spent quietly in isolation with the immediate family, but Mummy was only 15 in September 1939. It scuppered her hopes of a university education and I don’t think she took exams at the end of the school year. A London school was evacuated to the south coast and they shared the school with the existing pupils. The latter were there in the morning but had to leave their text books behind for the afternoon pupils. And the headmistress was very agitated and held practice evacuations several times a week, so lessons were spasmodic.

So she left school at 16 and went to secretarial college in Weymouth. The college was in sight of the harbour and there were regular “dogfights” over the bay. I suspect that the evacuees had gone back to London or elsewhere by that time, it wasn’t the smartest move to have sent them to the South coast in the first place. She said that the tutor, a rather fussy chap, used to wring his hands and say “oh ladies, ladies, do come down” when the girls all used to rush up to the flat roof to watch the aerial battles. Until one day, when a plane was shot down and hit the water in flames, and they realised that they were watching real life and it wasn’t a bit of fun at all.

When she was approaching 18, she realised she’d be called up to the Forces. She was shy and unsophisticated and felt completely out of her depth, so volunteered for the Land Army instead. Her grandfather had been a farmer and she was a healthy, outdoorsy girl who relished physical work.

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