Holding the Home Front, The Women’s Land Army in the First World War

The author has written a warm view of the WWI Land Girls who have been largely forgotten by history. The Great War needed women to be mobilized in large numbers to make up for the loss of men, creating a revolution in society. The role of women in agriculture was a key part of that story. Much Recommended


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NAME: Holding the Home Front, The Women's Land Army in the First 
World War
FILE: R2450
AUTHOR:  Caroline Scott
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  214
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWI, World War One, World War 1, First World War, Great War, 
Home Front, agriculture, Land Army, civilians at war
ISBN: 1-78383-112-X
IMAGE: B2450.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/jaw3zfm
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: The author has written a warm view of the WWI Land Girls 
who have been largely forgotten by history.  The Great War needed 
women to be mobilized in large numbers to make up for the loss of men, 
creating a revolution in society. The role of women in agriculture was 
a key part of that story. Much Recommended 

When war broke out in 1914, Britain was largely unprepared, as it 
usually is at the start of a war. The price of democracy is that a 
huge initial advantage is handed to any despot who wants to chance 
his arm. British history is a story of an ill-prepared start, 
followed by a courageous fight against odds, followed by a race to 
correct the deficiencies of peace-time politicians, concluded with 
total victory. The Great War was therefore following in a British 
tradition. In 1914, the challenges were even greater as this was to 
be a war of many new technological innovations and a desire by the 
enemy for total war to include all civilians.

The BEF that marched off to war in 1914 was a small but highly 
trained and reasonably equipped force with elan, discipline and 
endurance. The Germans dismissed this force as a 'contemptible 
little army' and were rudely awakened when this small force blunted 
and then halted the German advance, destroying the potential German 
advantage of a quick advance to defeat France. Small units fought with 
such courage that the Germans thought they had found the complete BEF, 
only to see the units melt away, reform and again cause serious damage 
to the much larger German force. In a remarkable act of co-operation, 
for two armies that had no previous experience of fighting together, 
the exhausted BEF and the French armies managed to counter attack with 
such force that they sent the Germans reeling back towards their own 
borders. It was an amazing display of arms but the BEF was just too 
exhausted to complete the moves and the Germans had just enough time 
to dig in and start the terrible trench war that was to occupy the rest 
of the conflict on the Western Front. The war of attrition was to not 
only consume large numbers of young men, but to see huge pressure on 
Britain to switch to a war economy and create the tools of victory. 
For the first time British civilians were in the front line, fighting 
with as much determination as the troops in the trenches.

There was simply no pool of available labour to operate all of the 
civilian tasks with men. The only alternative was for women to take 
up new rolls in addition to the more traditional female duties that 
still had to be done. Women drove trams, ambulances and goods lorries. 
They worked on the railways and tilled the fields. There was very 
little at home that was not done by women. 

A major organization was the Women's Land Army and it is both amazing 
and disappointing that their vital contribution has not been 
adequately recognized. The author has done a good job in attempting 
to correct this unfortunate deficiency. Perhaps the real question is 
why the previous neglect.

In WWII, the Land Girls did receive a great deal of attention and 
after the war they continued to be recalled in films and documentary. 
There was no less nor more merit in their service than that of their 
sisters during WWI. Of course society had already changed greatly as 
a result of WWI and the role of women at war was no longer as socially 
shattering as it was in 1914. By 1939, the need to mobilize women to 
replace men who had gone to war was just as great, but the model 
already existed and had only to be copied, not created in a 
revolutionary manner. After 1945 there was further change in society 
and great efforts have been made to promote the female war workers 
of the 1939-1945 war as part of the drive to achieving full equality 
of men and women in the work place.

This new book includes a fascinating photo-plate section that supports 
the text very well. The story is interesting both from the point of 
reviewing the role of women in the Land Army, and in the conditions 
existing in agriculture at the time. Today, most readers who have any 
familiarity with agriculture will think of small farms being 3,000 
acres and typical farms being 14,000 acres. The path to these farm 
sizes has really only been during the last four decades and practical 
because of changes in investment and the availability of heavy 
machinery that allow a handful of workers to manage thousands of acres.

In 1914, there were great estates but field sizes were only a tenth of 
field sizes in 2000. Those fields were frequently farmed by tenant 
farmers and more than 80% of farms in 1914 were of less than 50 acres. 
It was essentially a manual task with very few machines, many of which 
were steam powered, and where the horse was still the main motive 
force. Equipment had changed little over the previous two hundred 
years. It was a dirty business, conducted in the open in all the 
seasons of the year. Farm labouring was a hard life, little improved 
since Medieval times. This makes the story of the WWI Women's Land 
Army all the more remarkable and the flavour of life and conditions 
has been set out by the author.