Members of the Women’s Land Army in Somerset were crucial contributors to Britain’s food production during the Second World War. Without them the story of Somerset’s war would have been very different.

A member of the Women’s Land Army using a Fordson tractor at Cannington Farm Institute, c. 1940

Home Grown Food

Before 1939 Britain imported much of its food from abroad. When war broke out, it was essential for more food to be grown at home and for new land to be taken into cultivation. Because so many male agricultural workers had joined the armed forces, women became a vital part of the rural economy.

A member of the Women’s Land Army at Cannington Farm Institute, c. 1940 © IWM

Farms in Somerset

By July 1943 there were 1,793 Land Army girls on farms in Somerset. They often formed strong friendships and most of them greatly enjoyed their time in the county.

In 2008 over 40,000 former Land Army girls were awarded a commemorative badge by the government in recognition of what they had contributed to victory.

A member of the Women’s Land Army milking a cow, Somerset Farm Institute, Cannington, c. 1940

Renée’s Story

Renée was born in Wolverhampton in 1924. She joined the Women’s Land Army in 1943 and trained at the Somerset Farm Institute, Cannington. There Renée learnt general agricultural work as well as machine milking before she went on placements at local farms.

For over three years Renée worked at a dairy farm in Spaxton where she managed the herd and delivered the milk.

Renée remained in the Women’s Land Army when the war ended and met her future husband while working on a farm near Bridgwater. After their marriage they farmed together in East Bower for many years.

Mary’s Story

Mary grew up in Weston-super-Mare. After joining the Woman’s Land Army she trained at Steanbow Farm in Pilton.

Mary then worked at a farm in Watchfield near Highbridge where she milked cows and did general farm work, including tractor driving.

Later she returned to Steanbow where she became part of the relief milking team, riding a motorbike to various farms on her round. She remained in the Land Army until it was disbanded in 1950. Mary married a dairy farmer and settled near Brent Knoll.