Cove Road – Malham

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 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 the pay was not over generous; it was standardized 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 WLA girls did ploughing, pulling turnips, picking potatoes, helping with hay time, harvest and threshing, in fact any job that needed extra labour, tractors and machinery. Most dales farms were not equipped for the type of farming which they were forced to follow in the war years. 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.