Sunday, 19 December 2010

Thick, thick snow and World War II

Six days to go before the day. Christmas which I perennially misspell as Christams.

Our heating has been belting along, bless its tiny boots.

My mother's heating went off at 10:00 o'clock last night. She put the electric heater on, and surrounded herself with hot water bottles. Surprisingly, she slept and this morning she rang me.

She's lucky we live within a two minute walk. Elderly, bent over, unable to hear or understand a lot of what she hears, my mother is now tiny and very frail. She was young during the years of World War II, recalls it all with horror, says it should never happen again, deplores the fact that many, many regions of the world are torn apart by war in these modern days.

My mother is a survivor. She is a heroine: she and other young women chopped tree after tree down during the years 1942 to 1946 to send them to be made into pit props, telegraph poles, ladders, newsprint, and other such necessary items. Timber Corps women were part of the Women's Land Army.

"By July 1943 there were 87,000 Land Girls and they were joining at the rate of 4,000 a month. Despite this, in 1944 the government, led by Ernest Bevin, declared that Land Girls would be excluded from post-war education and training schemes. This led to protests and strikes, and Lady Denman resigned. However, Her Majesty the Queen made the people aware of her support for the WLA and eventually the government was forced to compromise. A Land Army Benevolent Fund was promised £150,000 and resettlement grants of £150 were agreed, but Land Girls received no medals for their services. The much prized uniform was taken back. One was only allowed to keep greatcoats and shoes, but only if the greatcoat was dyed blue· "

My mother loved her greatcoat. She said it had style and suited her. You would think they could've given those young women their coats as a small thank you, wouldn't you?

In 2000, for the first time since the World War II ended, the Land Army women were invited to the cenotaph to remember their fallen friends, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and sweethearts.

They were honoured in 2008 by the Labour government issuing a badge for the Land Army and Timber Corps girls. Gordon Brown said:

"We have been slow to thank you. We could have done this years ago but I'm pleased that we can do it now. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude."

Scotland went one better, erecting a life-size bronze statue of a Timber Corps girl in the forest near Aberfoyle in 2007.

I was pleased to be able write an article for Ancestors magazine about my mother's experiences in the Timber Corps. In the inimitable way that some mothers have, she read it and commented: "Well, that was better than I expected."

Here and now, for my little mother, for all the women who undertook heavy manual labour, left their families, lived in huts, trudged through snow, laughed at adversity and saved thousands of tons of space in British ships for food and necessary supplies, I dedicate this blog entry.

To you wonderful women - God bless you, wherever you are.


  1. Wonderful post, Danae! We need to celebrate these heroines.

  2. Beautiful post Danae.
    Have a good Christmas or Christams lol