A new exhibition at Rustington Museum honours the hard-working women and girls of the Women’s Land Army.
With the menfolk mostly enlisted into the armed forces, it was left to the women to take over the very physical duties of farming, growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables, keeping livestock, milking cows and generally ensuring the country survived.
The hours were long, the pay small, but friendships were formed and romances flourished.
In Sussex the work was mostly in the many nurseries, or in the fields sowing and harvesting crops.
Sybil Seamer, a local woman who was a Land Girl during the Second World War, has shared memories of her time with the organisation for the exhibition.
She said: “At 19 I was sent to Arundel with three other girls, to do a month’s training.
“We cycled the three miles every day – up hill – to where we began our training – we had to be on site by 6am!
“We were directed into the greenhouses, which were very hot as this was springtime, where rows and rows of tomatoes were growing.
“On rest day (Sunday) we met up in the village with the many Land Girls working on the local farms, some hitching a lift in the farmers jeeps, tractors, mostly cycles, to exchange stories and tales of their exhausting schedules, the families they boarded with, accommodation, facilities and, of course, any available young men!
“We always had fresh eggs of course – and huge roast chicken dinners on Sunday – with plenty of fresh vegetables.
“In the winter it was the sprouts that had to be picked not only very early, but whilst the ground was still frozen, these then boarded (all picked and packed by the girls) on the early morning train to London’s Covent Garden. We were not permitted to wear gloves for this task!
“Lifelong friendships were formed. Should one of your close knit team manage to have the time and energy for a romance, all the girls would make sure she was suitably clothed and bathed for the dance or date.
“If a wedding resulted, again everyone pawned their food and clothing rations to give the bride a day to remember.
“Not all wartime Land Army romances ended happily – but there were plenty of shoulders to cry on should things not work out.”
The Women’s Land Army exhibition is on display at Rustington Museum until the end of January.
The museum is at 76-78 The Street, Rustington, BN16 3NR, and is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm. For more information call 01903 788478, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rustingtonmuseum.org