My Time in the Women’s Land Army 1943-46 by the late Edna Thompson
I lived in Gateshead and was the youngest of seven children. I worked at the Co-op Clothing Factory in Pelaw as tailoress making soldiers’ uniforms. In 1943, when I was 19 years old, I was called up to join the Women’s Land Army.
I was sent to Sedgefield. A chap from Durham allocated work for the girls. My friend Doris Ball and I were given jobs at Merrybent Nurseries near Darlington. It was run by the Co-op and was a series of greenhouses which grew nothing but tomatoes and lettuces. The Durham chap took us both down to Hulam near Ingleton where there was the specially built WLA hostel which was to be our home for the duration of the war. It was a dormitory with about 12 small rooms, more like cubicles which housed 4 girls per cubicle. There were 48 of us living together – most of the girls were from the Sunderland area and most worked on farms around Darlington. Later, the hostel was extended.
Land Army Girls at Hulam Hostel
middle row, centre Edna Turnbull,
Some girls are ready for a night out
My working day started at about 7.30 in the morning when I left the hostel to walk to Langton where I was picked up by a wagon which took us to the nursery at Merrybent. I started work at 8.00 and 2, sometimes 3 girls helped a chap who looked after 2 or 3 greenhouses. There were about 10 of us who worked there at any one time. We just tended the plants – pretty easy really compared to the jobs other Land Army girls were expected to do. Some of the girls were lucky enough to learn to drive and they spent their time running about in the vans!
We were allowed home at weekends so I got a lift on the wagon to the Merrybent Egg Station – that was where the eggs from local farms were collected and taken by train to Darlington. I got on the train then went off up to Gateshead.
Dances were held at Ingleton Village Hall and it was there that I met Arnold Thompson from Wackerfield. He worked on the family farm, rented from Lord Barnard, Raby Estates. The war ended in August 1945 and I was kept on at the nursery until the spring of 1946 when I came out of the WLA. My old job at Pelaw was waiting for me. I worked there and went back down to Ingleton on the weekend or Arnold came up to Gateshead. I married Arnold in 1949.
I can honestly say that the war and joining the Women’s Land Army changed my life. If I didn’t work at the nursery then I wouldn’t have met Arnold. Life in Gateshead would have been so different from my life in the country at Wackerfield.