One of the hearty ladies who stepped up when the men were at war during World War Two was there to see a memorial to Land Girls unveiled in a recent ceremony.
Bertha Doxey, of Cromford, enlisted in the Women’s Land Army in 1939 when the men who would traditionally work the land were called to fight on the Continent.
Last month the 93–year–old, accompanied by her family, travelled to the National Memorial Arboretum, in Alrewas, to see the memorial to the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps unveiled.
Her granddaughter, Helen Debes, explained: “Bertha enlisted at Newark where she was issued with her uniform from where, along with 18 other girls, she was taken to a local hostel to work at the Kelham sugar beet factory for the next six months, cultivating the land and transporting the beet to the factory, driving a standard Fordson tractor with trailer.”
After this, she was sent to Bunny, near Nottingham, for three months, followed by a move to Retford to join a thrashing gange.
Bertha was kept busy during her time in service, taking on manual jobs that had previously been left to men. After this her next post was at Surrey there she took on general farming duties and became a milking parlour manager.
Helen continued: “In 1942 America joined the war effort, after which the Land Girls were frequently invited to local dances, which were free of charge, full of young American GI’s and provided good food.”
Port was the tipple of choice and the occasional pair of nylons, tin of peaches and chocolate changed hands. at the social events. Another favourite of the Land Girls was Camel cigarettes.
Bertha said: “If you didn’t smoke when you went in, you did when you came out.”
In 1946 Bertha was demobbed and returned home to Derbyshire where she married her sweetheart, ex Grenadier Guardsman Victor Doxey, settling in Cromford where they had three children. More than 300 former Land Girls and Lumber Jills from as far afield as Australia attended the ceremony to unveil the memorial, along with family, friends, officials and HRH Countess of Wessex, made out of bronze and designed by Denise Dutton from Leek.
Bertha said: “It is marvellous that the Land Girls and Lumber Jills have finally got the recognition for their hard work during the War years. Despite the wind and rain it was heart–warming to meet so many other women who served alongside me through the war.”
Fundraising is ongoing for the upkeep of the memorial for the next twenty years. To donate, visit www.womenslandarmytribute.co.uk