Emma Spurway (1923- 2009)



MRS SPURWAY WAS BORN IN 1923 AND THE INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE IN 2005 THE YEAR SHE WAS 82.  (This information is in the text near the end of the interview)


JC  First of all, can you tell me how you got into the Land Army?  How did you come to join up and had you got a farming background?

ES  Oh God, no.  Well, I lived in Yorkshire and my sister joined the Land Army.  Before me, about six months before me, she was two years older.  And I wanted to come but mother wouldn’t let me and, unknown to her, I wrote about it and I wrote thirteen letters at the finish up.  Because mother said if I went I had to go where my sister was which was in Lincolnshire.  So I wrote a letter at the finish up and said anywhere in England.  So I finally got a letter stating Piddletrenthide, that’s in Dorset, so that’s how I came to come to Piddletrenthide.  And we were there for a few days.  There were eight of us and we were divided up in twos because we were going as rabbit and rat catchers.   So the girl I’d met up in London, I thought she was a……… well I thought she was an Indian girl, I didn’t know she could speak English and she come from Rotherham.   But she was dark with long face and black hair and me, I was all round and…………. anyway we two came to Bridport and we did rabbit catching.  And then we passed out as rabbit catchers and the man what was with us he said to me one day ‘you know’, he said ‘it’s all right this job, but you look, you’ll be going round all these woods in the dark ‘cos you work longer hours on that, and you’ve got to deal with foxes, badgers’, cos you had to kill them, you didn’t have nothing there with you to kill them.  If you’d trapped them you had to kill them see, snakes, birds, anything bar rabbits, you know what I mean.  So we both passed as rabbit catchers and I wanted to go as a rat catcher but they wouldn’t let me so I said ‘Right, I’ll go as a field worker’.  

So we finally…………………. oh, from Bridport I went to Netherbury and I was there for a time, and then from there for the field work we went to Cerne Abbas where the giant is.  In the workhouse – and it was a workhouse.  And oh, the family, it was…………….. well you didn’t know who belonged to who, it was one of these places.  And we never had a square meal, we never had a (? unclear) of hot water, we never had a change of bedding, we only had a little towel like that, it was absolutely appalling.  Eight of us was there and one day I said ‘You carry on to work and I’m going in to Dorchester’, not knowing what the hell I was going to do when I got there.  And I went in to Shire Hall and there was a committee meeting going on so I said ‘Well, I’ve come from Cerne Abbas so I’ve got to see somebody’.  So anyway, this committee meeting closed for ten minutes or a quarter or an hour and they said ‘You’re allowed in’.  So I went in – I was only a bit of a kid you know – and there was all these old men there you know.  So I told them the tale, we hadn’t had any food, we hadn’t washed, we’d dirty clothes on, blah blah, you know.   I said ‘We’re paying 5 shillings a week more to live there out of our money and we’re only having 13 shillings so we were going down to’…. you know the five taken off that.  We used to go down to this YMCA for broken biscuits, anything you know.  I’d stand outside the garden admiring, hoping they’d give us a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  We would have liked that ‘cos there’s no (? unclear) we was starved.  Healthy.  So anyway, that was on a Wednesday and by Saturday they moved us.  They moved us into Beaminster.

JC  So did you have all the uniform provided for you or did you not get it all?

ES  You didn’t get it all.  No, we didn’t get all of it.

JC  Because I saw the list you see, you could see a list in a book and it said they had to have this, this and this, and I thought well I  wonder if they got all the bits…………………..

ES  No, we didn’t.  And they had red books where they come round every six months and you got different badges.  We never had a badge.  And I was a forewoman and I can never remember having armbands.  You see what I mean that a lot of it…………….. now then, up London way and that, they was well looked after because the one who was in charge was up there so we, you know. So anyway, so we’re coming to Beaminster and we sorted that place out, which we had to do at Piddletrentide, and then we got little jobs and then the Warden said to me one day, she said, ‘I’ve got to hand you the fare and you’ve got to go to Dorchester to Shire Hall’.  I thought I’d got the sack see, so I went there and had to see these old men and they said ‘Oh well, we’re now putting you in charge of Beaminster.’  ‘Oh’ I said ‘I can’t do that’ because I was nothing with education.

JC  How old were you then?

ES  I was about 18.  So they said ‘Oh yes, you can be in charge’.  I said ‘I’m sorry’,  I said ‘I can’t.  I can do the work but as regards writing and all that’, I said,  ‘I haven’t a clue.  I can only just about do my own name’.  So they said ‘If you can come in here and put us men in our place, you can put the farmers in their place and that’s what we’re looking for’.  So that’s how I came to be a boss.

So then, from there we worked for the War Agriculture and they sort of sent you jobs and then I used to have to dish it all out.

JC  How many girls were at the hostel then?

ES  There were thirty at a time.  But I’ve got a list in there and I think I’m near enough a hundred which I can remember.  Beaminster ran on its own merits because well, I suppose, I dealt with the farmers I had to and so I got the jobs myself – you see what I’m trying to say?

JC  So you would put the girls into gangs to go out………………….?

ES  Oh yes, I put the list out every day, what, where they were to work and so forth and it was the happiest place and I’ve never heard a girl say…………… they all say it was the happiest days of their lives so I mean there must have been something in it.  And I meet up with them and…………….. I had a girl here……….that girl from ……………… Friday she was here.

JC  And were the conditions good in the hostel.  Was it an old building or…………..?

ES  No, it was a wooden shack I think it could have been used for Irishmen or something – I think the one at Piddletrenthide, Irish men had been in that.  Oh it was lovely.  And we come in Friday, we come in on a lorry on the Saturday night and there were these long trestle tables and it was full of food.  And we just sat there and we just ate and ate.  We couldn’t believe it and a nice clean bed and a nice towel.  And a bath.  We never had a bath at the other place.  Well I did find a bath in a shed, it were all rusty, it were a fitted one and I said to old man, (Harris ? unclear) his name were, ‘Could we have a bath’?  ‘Oh can’t have a bath’, he said, ‘No water, no sticks’.  I said ‘Well look at us’!  So he said ‘All right, one lot of sticks and one lot of water’.  Well I mean we only had about that much in the bath you see so we drew cards.  I were number five.  I never got down, I just washed my feet.

JC  So in Beaminster you had hot water as well?

ES  Oh we’d  baths and……………. you know everything was first class.  The food was good as (unclear).


JC  Did you have to give coupons for your food or was all the food provided because you were an agricultural worker?

ES  The food was provided and that side of our money was taken out and we had the thirteen shillings, or whatever it was.

JC  And was it the Warden who used to do all the preparing of the food?

ES  That’s right.  And then you had your cooks there and the cleaners and then there used………………

I can’t think what her name was, we used to have a Land Girl come in from Bridport and she were the gardener.  And then there used to be an old man, what was his name called, I thought of it the other day.  He used to peel the potatoes and keep the boilers going for the hot water, you know.  It was all……………

JC  So it was all done properly and  your job was just to go out and work on the farms then and do your job?

ES  That’s right, and come back of an evening.  So we didn’t see much of Beaminster during the day you see because you – well I was up at five o’clock stirring them and getting them all out.  I mean it was hard work and then at the beginning there were some farmers, well, I don’t think they knew how to treat women.  So I used to have a book and it were like noughts and crosses.  The good farmers had a tick and the bad ones had a cross.  And with running it more or less on my own if they, the bad ones, phoned up and said, you know, wanted girls I’d say none available you see.  ‘Oh well we’ll contact the War Agricultural’ (unclear) they used to say.  Well if I had one or two owing to weather or something or other, I’d say ‘Come on, get your bags out, we’re off’, and I’d go to all the good farmers and put me hand up and just shove them out.  You see?  And clear myself you know?

JC  So what sort of farming work were you and the girls doing?

ES  We were doing everything from digging trenches, laying pipes, treeing, potatoes, apples, threshing – tons of threshing we did – and well anything they give us to do. 

JC  And what sort of time did you finish in the evening.  Did you have, were they long days for you?

ES  Well, some was.  But you used to get extra pay if you worked late.   I mean, I come through Beaminster tunnel near enough at twelve o’clock at night with girls see.   And then you’d get there and they wouldn’t have finished so I’d have to work with them till they’d finished.  Well my money weren’t going on you see, only theirs.  And I’d put all that extra, I had ten shillings.

JC  So that was your extra forewoman’s pay?

ES  Ten shillings.  And driving, I used to get £1 for all my labours.  And then when I got home of a night I used to have do all the clerical work and……………………….

JC  So when you were really taking charge of all the girls, where did the girls come from.  Were they country type girls or city girls or a real mixture?

ES  No, I had Italians and (? unclear) and Connie Moss which used to shorten the name.  Oh we had, well they’re written down in there.  There’s a few, a lot of cockneys, and Yorkshire, Birmingham, you mention it then Dorset ones of course.  

JC  Did you have to train the girls when they came.  Did they get training anywhere?

ES  They had no training.  You had to get straight in.

JC  They were learning on the job?

ES  Oh yes.

JC  And were there any girls it came as a bit of a shock to?

ES  Well, I had one once……. She’d arrived and, hoity toity like, and I woke her up.  ‘Oh I didn’t think I’d have to wake up at this time’.  Well, when she come in for her breakfast ‘Oh’, she said, ‘Don’t we get strawberries or anything like that?’  I said ‘I’ve been here a few years, I haven’t had a strawberry yet.’  (Laughter)  But she didn’t last you see, sometimes some were there years and – one, I’ve just been writing to one in Australia and then one of our girls died in Australia and, you know…………………….


JC  And what about………….was there a curfew that girls had to be inside by, it was strict like that was it?

ES  Oh yes, the Warden was……………

JC  Because I did wonder, with all those American soldiers around.  (Laughter)

ES  Now then, you’re saying that, and what life’s like now to say all they young girls, and as you say, all these soldiers around, I only know of two girls ever getting pregnant.  Yes.  And, you see, I mean there was one, Pat Sessions she was only 16, she put her age up.  You see what I’m trying to say?  And when you look what’s going on around us now, I mean we’ve got contraception, we’ve got everything.  There was nothing there you know.  And that’s all I know of, just two girls.

JC  So they had to be in at a certain time.  So what sort of entertainment, what did you do in the evenings after a  hard day’s work?

ES  We used to have little concerts up there and two or three of the boys in Beaminster, one played the violin, one played the piano, and we used to have a bit to do in the hostel and we used to get invites to dances.  To Lyme Regis and a lorry would come for you,  and Burton Bradstock and, well, different places.  Piddlehinton and even if you’d had your late pass you know, I’d say well,  ‘You lot do go and sit in the lorry’, you know.  (Laughter) Because I used to be in with it you know, and it was lovely.

JC  Well, lots of dressing up to go out for the evening.  With what you could do.

ES  What you could, you know.  You’d be borrowing people’s………… oh and in Beaminster we used to have a proper band and everything.   Oh lovely dances in Beaminster.

JC  Where were they? In the Public Hall?

ES  In the town hall.  Oh gosh.  Mind, it’s altered a lot since.  Because in our days, as I said we didn’t have any money.  At the beginning we didn’t get paid until the Monday – well the dance would be on the Saturday.  Well, what do you do?  So you’d all dress up and then you’d count your money, you’d have about fourpence-halfpenny between you and then you’d go down the pub and you’d have to have a sip of this drink – if  you didn’t get one bought you, that was it.  But you’d have to wait until half-past-ten to go into the dance when the pub closed.  And the hall is different now, you could go in at the front and we used to have like a good runner in front and as you went into with a crowd you’d say ‘pay behind’ and then you’d shoot across the dance hall and they had these sash windows in the toilets.  So we used to lift the sash windows and get through and you used to have to run all round the block to get back in at the door and they used to have a man with a peg leg, what was on the door, and he wouldn’t have got over there by the time we were back and he’d drop your coats, you know, and you was in.  And you’d be dancing and poor old matey used to be at the door.

JC  So there was plenty of fun……..

ES  Oh it was wonderful.  Yes, it was. 

JC  Certainly people I’ve spoken to have just said well, you know, during the war was sometimes the best times of my life.  (? unclearboth talking at once)

ES  It was………

JC  Because of the fun and the friendship and the fact that women could do things.  They hadn’t really been allowed to do much before.

ES  And I can remember a few of us hitch-hiking to Weymouth.  You could get board and lodge for 1s. 6d.

and you could get in the dance hall for 6d you see.   And we took this lift from Dorchester.  We got a lift to Dorchester and we got on a lorry, don’t laugh, it was full of fish.  Well, we stank of this because there was nothing covering it and we had to go to the dance and everything with this fish.

JC  How many years were  you with the Women’s Land Army?

ES  I came out in 1948.

JC  So you stayed long after the duration of the war.  And were you in Beaminster, once you’d got there, for the rest of your service?

ES  Yes, spent the time then see, yes.  So they were coming and going you know.  I mean ………….

even in here and I shouldn’t think I’ve got them all……………… (very unclear)

JC  Gosh a long list of names.  Goodness.  (Sounds of rustling)  And these are your photographs of the reunion………. that’s Weymouth isn’t it?

ES  And I’ve got piles……….  That’s two years ago, that’s when we were marching there.  That’s in Weymouth that is and that’s in Puddletown that is.  This is Puddletown.

JC  So you’ve kept in touch – oh and look at these wartime photos.   And it’s really a very smart uniform isn’t it.

ES  Oh yes.  Oh we felt we was.

JC  How much uniform did you get?  Were you able to change quite regularly?  Because they must have got pretty dirty during the winter months.

ES  Well, they did.  You could change every now and again.  If  you got really in a mess you know, you’d have sommat.

JC  These are really lovely photographs.  I know that Robin’s got some of these but presumably this is the hostel?

ES  Yes, and that’s the cook, what was at the time.   Jeanie House a Beaminster girl was the cook in the first place when we started.  Jean House.  I think she had to finish when it came to looking after her mother. 

JC  They are wonderful photographs.

ES  But a lot I’ve lost because the good ones (? unclear) a photograph of their mother you know.  And you think well you’ve got to let them go.

JC  This is a fascinating one with a horse and cart and the old fashioned hayrick.

ES  That was over Robertson’s, Kingston Russell that was.  He didn’t have no girls.  I wouldn’t let him have any girls that one.  That is the Weymouth one you see this year (?unclear)

JC  2004 Goodness only last year.

ES  That’s this year’s.

JC  Goodness.  And all the matched uniform with the badges.

ES  Well, this is it.  But we’ve had to make them.  Because everything was taken away from us.

JC  Well that’s what I was going to say.  When you left the Land Army did you have to give it all back?

ES  Oh yes, you come out with your shoes, your shirt and your overcoat.

JC  Goodness, and that was it?  Because I notice that you know, in the museum I think we’ve got a pair of Land Army breeches that someone’s given us so I don’t know where those came from.

ES  These are all bits of writings and all them kind of things we had for, you know, for ……………….. I’ve even got my (? unclear) for Weymouth for this year.

JC  So they meet every year in Weymouth.

ES  There’s a big parade.  I’ll show you the photographs of the bands in a minute.  You’ll love it.

JC  These are marvellous aren’t they?

ES  These are in Weymouth.  All of these is Weymouth.

JC  Oh I’ll have to go down this year and have a look.

ES  Oh, it’s wonderful, wonderful.

JC  But I’m amazed at the number of names that you’ve still collected of all the girls.

ES  And you know I can lay in bed, even now, and think to myself ‘Now what the hell was her name?’ Because it’s like everything else, you don’t use their last name do you.  Once it’s written down that was it.  You see what I mean?  I had 8 Birmingham girls coming, they were only there for about 10 days so I never, you know I can’t remember any of theirs, but (you see Doris Binns up there?)

JC  Oh there she is, yes.  It’s a wonderful list of names.  And were there any local girls in the Women’s Land Army or were they all girls that had come from other places?


ES  Nearest ones, as you say, would be Weymouth.  And Gosport and….. that would be the nearest.

JC  And do you remember any air raid things going on in Beaminster because it looks pretty quiet.  I’ve discovered a couple of dead cows and things that fell out of the sky.  (Laughter)

ES  Well I mean you’d hear these things but you took no notice of them.  You’d watch the bombers going over of a night and you’d count them when they came back.  You see we didn’t know what was going on as such.  You were in a world of your own really you know.  And I mean Beaminster’s grown now, I mean it’s much bigger than what it….. I mean there were about 13 pubs when we were there you know.  Well now there’s…………..

JC  So presumably there were some pubs and a few local shops there in the Square?

ES  Oh yes, everything was all right and I mean you could get lifts in those days, you know.  Because the………. is it the BBC on top of Beaminster Downs, isn’t that a receiving station?  Well they used to work nights as well.  Well if we’d got into Bridport to the pictures, we got a lift back with they in the night you see.  Half past eleven or something like that.

JC  So presumably you had to ask for late passes to go out to these sorts of things did you?

ES  Well you’d use your Late Pass.

JC  Was it the Warden who gave those out or was responsible?

ES  Well, you were supposed to be in half-past ten every night and you had one Late Pass a week you see.  And if you didn’t do what you should, you lost it.  She was a lovely……. I’ve got her somewhere………..

JC  Is that Mrs. Catchpole?

ES  Catchpole.  Wonderful woman she is, was.  

JC  Quite a young woman?

ES  Well, she was.  I’d say she was in her thirties when she took that post.  And she left there and she went into the Navy at the finish up and she married a Naval bloke.  When I lived at Thorncombe – ‘cos that’s where I lived, at Thorncombe for twenty years before I come in here, and she visited me a few times.

JC  Fascinating.  Seeing the uniform and the people on the trucks and so forth.  Did you have a lorry or a truck based then at the hostel?

ES  At the beginning we had bicycles all the time and one of the garages, Mr. Bridle, any long distance he  used to do it.  Then when we worked for the flax mills we used to have the flax mills lorry and then we come to have a van of my own.

JC  Now, I was looking at a photograph, it shows the flax pulling.  Was that quite a big job around the Beaminster area?  Because you don’t hear much about things like  flax these days.

ES  You don’t hear nothing at all now.  Because then, where the flax mills was, up Waytown well nowadays there’s nothing to tell you where you was.

JC  That’s the other thing I was going to ask you.  Were all the signs missing and………….?

ES  Nothing whatsoever.  Nothing on a gate and you had to find the farms and there wasn’t the traffic around.  You talk about losing yourself today (Laughter) (unclear speech)  There was no-one to ask.  I know, in Burton Bradstock once, I was trying to find a farm and stopped on this bridge and I said to this old man well, you know, ‘Could you tell me where so and so farm is’?.  He said ‘Go on here for about a mile and a half’, he said, ‘And you’ll come to a white gate.’  He said ‘Well it’s not there’ he said.  ‘Turn round’ (Laughter and unclear text)  And I had to go all the way back.  Another time, somewhere or other, well we couldn’t cycle round and the bloke was still sat there and he said ‘Oh it don’t take you long to do your work do it’?

JC  Oh dear.  And what about blackouts?  Presumably everybody was blacked out?

ES  Oh yes, blackouts.  That’s when you lost your Passes.  And many a time you weren’t in so somebody else had to do it for you.  Oh yes, that was very strict.

JC  So that was very serious and strict?

ES  Very very serious that was, the blackouts, yes.

JC  And did you used to have to carry gasmasks with you when you were working or ……………..

ES  I can’t remember that at all.

JC  Because I notice in the photograph there’s no sign of anybody carrying a respirator.

ES  No.  But in winter, in Beaminster, we never saw Beaminster in daylight.  Only the weekend see.  Because you went in the dark and you come back in the dark.  Because we used to work as far as Sherborne, Yeovil, Dorchester, Chard Junction, all down the Vale, Charmouth.  You mention it, anywhere.

JC  So it was a really big area?

ES  Oh a massive area.

JC  And what did you do about food for lunchtime?  Were you fed at your farm, or what?

ES  Oh no, you took a packed lunch.  Well, hostels were different, how ours was run two girls had to clear the tables after tea, wash up and do all the sandwiches.  And then I’d give them the list in each tin, you know, like if it was a four, a three, or a two or whatever it was and then you’d done your duty.  But, thirty of you, you only got it every fifteen days.  Where in some hostels, well where my sister was, they used to have to do their own sandwiches which to me I thought was wrong because if you were the last one there there’d be no filling for you.  If (? unclear/talking together)

JC  What sort of thing would you have in your sandwiches for lunchtime?

ES  Well, it would be paste or jam that was the only part which was…………well, sandwiches aren’t the best of things and, I mean, they’d put the butter on and they’d have to scrape it up.  You’d start with half a pound and you’d have a pound by the time you’d finished.  (Laughter)  You know what I’m trying to say.

JC  Quite short rations

ES  Short rations.  On a Tuesday I think it was, I used to have to go down to the W??? something or other and we used to have the old Walton Pies – I don’t know if you……………… They was all right.  But you cheered if you found a bit of meat you know.

JC  So would that be the WVS?

ES  That’s right.

JC  Because I read about something called the Rural Pie Scheme giving pies to people, farm people and so on, who worked on farms.

ES  Yes, well most probably this had something to do with it.

JC  I’m just wondering if that was how they were paid for.

ES  We called them Walton Pies because if you had any meat, you know………  I think he was Member of Parliament at the time.

JC  That’s right.  He was the Minister of Food wasn’t he.  Lord Walton?

ES  Apart from that, you had a good breakfast and you always had a good meal when you come in.

JC  So really you did quite well because when you read about rationing……………..

ES  As time went on, and I got in with the proper, what I call the proper farmers, they used to feed us at dinnertimes.  You know down, Shirley Jenks down the Pilsden Manor, and the farm next to it and oh lovely food we used to have you know. 

JC  And presumably the farmers could get things off the ration anyway?

ES  They could.  They had dockets for us but a lot of them we never saw nothing you see.  And you got to some farms and you wouldn’t even get a drink.

JC  That’s a long day isn’t it.  Did you warn people about that?  

ES  Yes but they built crosses (?unclear)

JC  And did your girls have to do animal work as well as (? unclear text) ?

ES  Oh yes.  But not……………….Home Park was the animal place.

JC  I thought that was a training centre as well……?

ES  No, Sam Peters had that and I think the War Agriculture took it away from him because he wasn’t running it right.  We had to go and put the whole shipshape.  And then a Mr. Merryfield, I think he was, he took it over, a manager, and then girls used to go in for six weeks at a time and then they’d be out, distributed out to the farms doing the milking or whatever.

JC  That makes sense because I read somebody’s letter somewhere, that talked about the Horn Park milkers.  I wonder who they were?

ES  That’s right.  Now this girl what I’ve been (? unclear) I’ve just sent to in Australia, she was in Home Park and she’s trying to get names from me.  But if she was there for six weeks who the hell, who’s they six,eight, ‘cos I think there was only eight at a time there.  So I told her that, you know, sorry I can’t help her at all.


JC  So that in a way was kept quite separate from your hostel then?

ES  Yes, we never saw they at all.  

JC  And did you used to have anybody from War Ag. come down to the hostel at all to see you?

ES  Oh yes.  And I used to meet up with them as well.  (Laughter) Unknownst to the Land Army ‘cos they didn’t approve you see.  And I know this young girl Pat Sessions arrived, and well we used to go down the pub.  But it weren’t for what we drunk and we didn’t have any money to drink.  Nine out of ten of them drunk lime & water which I think was fourpence or something like that.  And anyway somebody in the pub, well I knew who she was, I don’t know her name, but she had a daughter which was, I’d say slightly retarded, and she couldn’t get a boy friend you know what I’m trying to say?  So we was in the way.  She reported me about having these young girls drinking so I come home one night. there the Land Army officials were there.  Oh my Lord, what have I done now you know?  And so they started on to me and they said about me having youngsters drinking so I said ‘Well, have you ever got drunk on lime & water?’  They said no, you know, and they were a bit happier now.  And they said ‘And what do you drink?’  So I said ‘Oh I have a drop of beer now and again’.  And one of them said ‘Do you mean common (? unclear)  I said ‘Yes, I can’t afford nothing…………. (?unclear text).’  (Laughter)  You know, stupid things

JC  Did you have a particular pub or two in Beaminster that the Land Army used or did you used to go all round the thirteen?  (Laughter)

ES  Well, different ones used to go to different pubs because the men used to have dart matches and instead of having money they used to get these chits, little round things.  Well if they won they give us the chits.  So you’d got something, (? unclear) some would follow inside.

JC  It was well organised then.  (Laughter)

ES  It was all organised and then other things….. we only used to have one little bar of soap a month, even there, and you had to do your washing as well with that.  So what I used to do on the sly, I used to get in the kitchen because I was allowed anywhere and pinch the cheese.  Then I used to get on my bike and go round the pubs flogging the cheese for bars of soap.  (Laughter)

JC  Barter system.

ES  Well you know, all these silly things and yet we got away with it.  

JC  It must also given a sense of fun to it…………..

ES  Oh it did.  And we used to have a girl, Bellamonti something.  Italian.  An Italian girl and she used to go 

into the larder, creep in the larder, with a jug of water.  An empty jug and then she used to take all the milk-tops off and take the tops off the milk and fill them up with water.  And then put the tops back on again.  And this particular day she was there, you know, and all at once the Warden said ‘Oh and this is what……’


JC  Caught in the act!

ES  And then this cream.  We used to have jam jars – if you weren’t going out you’d shake it and you’d have a knob of butter.

JC  Do it yourself?  Right it sounds very nice.  I expect it was very hard work as well as very good fun.

ES  It was.  The work was hard and I mean your clothes weren’t what you’d call waterproof not as such and if you were on ditching and that I mean your wellingtons would be full of water and you’d empty them out.  You’d no way of drying them, you’d put them on the following morning.  So biggest half of them is crippled now you see.  I’m one of the lucky ones what’s still getting around.  But most of them had all got crippled fingers and you know, what I meet up with.  And you know a lot of them can’t do the walk now.  The march at Weymouth because it’s about a mile.  Oh I never………………… The best thing I ever did you know.

JC  So what did you do when you came out of the Land Army?

ES  I got married.  That’s how I had to come out.  The man I was marrying he was in, well he was in the Army and the Navy, and he phoned up one day and said we’d been offered this house.  Well you couldn’t get houses in they days so I had to pack in.  And that’s how I come out.  And most probably I’d have carried on longer.   I think it finished in 1950.  And I think the hostel, well part of it, was taken down, and I think it’s behind the Town Hall, somewhere there.  And that was part of the hostel see.

JC  Well this has just been so fascinating.

ES  You can imagine when we get together!  Oh and you’d think we’d never been apart.  You know, to say 60 odd years ago and you can still laugh at stupid things what happened you know?  And you think ‘no I never did that’, you know.   

JC  So you were born in 1923

ES  1923 so I’m coming 82.  And I was in hospital last year – well not this week, next week – I had gallstones.  

JC  I’ve noticed in your photo album that obviously you let Robin copy some of your photos because that’s clearly one of yours, and those.  Now do you have any objections if I have some other copies made to put into the museum to keep there.

ES  If you want you can…………… Now what Robin did before, he took mine on and they were put in the museum and you see I’ve got a lot in here of the Weymouth ones you see.  

JC  Because I know that he used some of them in his book, and I’ve seen the pictures in there.  

ES  You see these are all the Weymouth ones, different ones you know.   That’s an aeroplane going by.

(? unclear) Them’s the tanks.  There’s tanks and all that at Weymouth.

JC  Oh I shall have to try and go this year.  Because I’m sure that would be nice.  And that’s one of the British Legion.  That’s right, yes.   Yes, well I moved to Beaminster just before that.


ES  And there’s these what somebody took off once but they’re not very clear.  That was for the BBC or something or other, I don’t know.  And that’s how they come back which I wasn’t very pleased with.

No, they’re very fuzzy aren’t they.  Very fuzzy.  But as long as you don’t mind us keeping our copies in the museum for the future generations, but they do like permission.

(Lots of talking  over one another – unclear)

ES  Yes. When was it, oh it was a good two years ago I got thirteen or fourteen of us into Beaminster for the day and we went into the White Hart and had a meal.  Some of they I hadn’t seen.  Mind you a few of them’s died since you know.  I went to a funeral, was it last year or year before, at Netherbury.  One of our girls, she died. 

JC  But certainly, I mean, if we could just………….. Because what we’ll do then is we’ll just put these onto, it’s like a photocopier, into the computer and I think he’s got some of these of yours as well.  I think these must be yours then as well mustn’t they?

(Some indistinct sentences follow where both are talking at the same time or interrupting one another)

ES  Oh yes, they’re all of mine what I’ve let him have at different times.

JC  So, if that’s OK with you I just wanted to clear it to make sure you’re happy for us to have them.

ES  And what is happening on this here affair?

JC  Well, what we’re hoping to do in August is to set up an exhibition which has got things, you know, information found out about the Land Army and other people of…….. I think somebody called I’m trying to think, Miss Lappy or Miss Lacey (Actually Mrs. Lacey) who was a Land Army woman…..

ES  That is the one – I’ve got a Land Army book upstairs if you want it and I think she’s in that.

JC  Oh I make take you up on that offer……………… We are just trying to do little bits about different things in the town.  you know, a little bit about rationing, a little bit about evacuation.  Because hopefully we’ll get younger people in and they will just get a flavour, not of what the war was like, but what Beaminster and the villages were like during the wartime.

ES  When you arrived down here we went into Beaminster and we met up with different ones, you know, people what remembered us.  Anyway, I’ve got address of a girl in Wales, Eileen, and I’m damned if this girl Erwen didn’t marry this woman’s brother.  So I’ve got the address.  And you know, it’s a small world.  And then another one came up to me and she said ‘Oh yes, I remember you.’   And I said ‘Yes, I remember, you’re Jean.’  And she says ‘I’m Jean’.  You see sixty….all those years ago. I mean, I were thinking there was a little girl what used to come up the hostel to my concerts you see.  We used to invite the kiddies from the village – we used to call it ‘Cocoa Night’ ‘cos you’d get a cup of Cocoa you see and we used to have these films.

JC  So you’d get some of the Beaminster children up watching.  Cocoa Night.  That’s a lovely………….

ES  Cocoa Night we used to call it and then we’d have these little kids sat on us knees and all.  it was lovely.  You know.

JC  That sounds amazing.  But I’d like to have a look at the book 


Recording ends suddenly with no formal cut off.