WW1 Blast From the Past: "There was resistance all round to the Land Army"

Blast From the Past: a World War One Land Army armband

Blast From the Past: a World War One Land Army armband

First published in News This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

In 2012, the Epsom Guardian ran a popular series of articles, Blast From The Past, which dug into the fascinating objects of yesteryear that can be found in Bourne Hall's archives.

In recognition of this year's centenary of the start of the First World War, Blast From the Past is back.    

For a taste of what visitors can expect at Bourne Hall’s exhibition exploring life in Epsom and Ewell during World War One, the museum’s curator, Jeremy Harte, has given the Epsom Guardian an insight into some of the items on display.

This week, he tells the story behind a Land Army armband...

"In 1917, Britain faced starvation as enemy action took its toll on the shipping which imported food.

"Better harvests were needed, and since most of the young workmen had gone to war, it was time to enlist women.

"This armband is part of the uniform of the Women’s Land Army (WLA).

"It was issued to Dorothy Sworder, who had been studying music at the Geneva Conservatoire before the war, and returned to her family home at Buntingford on the outbreak of hostilities.

"Aged 23, Dorothy was exactly the kind of woman that Lady Denman, founder of the WLA, wanted to recruit.

"She was resourceful and middle-class, which would get her more respect from farmers than a village girl could command.

"There was resistance all round to the Land Army.

"Agricultural labourers didn’t want job competition, and local elites were concerned about unfeminine behaviour.

"In response, the managers of the Land Army made it clear that their girls were workers on active service and should be treated as such.

"Dorothy had a badge saying ‘Land Worker’ to pin in her hat and by the end of the war she was a forewoman and had earned three stripes, each for six months’ service, with a chevron to show that she had completed two years."

Bourne Hall’s exhibition, Epsom and Ewell in the Great War, will be on display at the museum, in Spring Street, Ewell, until December 31.

 

 

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