Uniform

Very disorganised first four months. Great lack of uniform. Issued in bits and bobs i.e. 2 pairs woollen kneelength socks one week. Armband (Green with W.L.A and crown in red) the next week. Working dungarees were always issued first.

Full uniform consisted of —
1 pr Dress britches (Cavalry Twill)
1 pr Work Britches (Corduroy)
2 prs Dungarees (Khaki)
2 Aertex Shirts (Green)
1 woollen long sleeved V. necked pullover (Green)
2 prs. woollen socks
1 Cowgown (Khaki)
1 Shortie Top coat (Heavy & Khaki)
1 Hat scout type (Mine was a pork pie type, not many of them issued)
1 pr Black Flat Heeled Heavy shoes (Walking out)
1 pr Black Very Heavy boots (Working)
1 pr Heavy duty wellingtons

When forces were disbanded W.A.A.F. ATS WRENS etc. issued with civvy clothes and cash settlement. Civilians had Post War credits. W.L.A. had 1 shortie top coat, 1 pullover and 1 hat. NO CASH.

That's uniform!

While all other services got more money than we did (our pay was 12/- (60p) a week rising to 14/6d (85p) after 6 months), they had free san pads, cheap cosmetics, free soap and free travel warrants for all leaves AND CHEAP CIGS. We had 1 travel warrant a year and paid for all the above out of our weekly wage. (We also had to buy our own undies & nightwear. Other services issued).

Work conditions

You either worked from a hostel, going to any farm that needed you, or you were billeted on a farm and worked there day in, day out, year after year. Living on a farm you lived as one of the family and worked like one of them too, i.e. milking cows, delivering milk and all kinds of stock work pigs sheep etc.

Hostels came in many shapes and sizes. Pre-fabricated huts (very cold!) with 18 to 20 in a dormitory run by a warden and under warden. Very few facilities for clothes and nowhere for personal possessions. Poor bathrooms (mostly communal showers). Bunk beds and 4 drawer dressing tables, of which 2 drawers were yours. (No keys!) Food mediocre (one warden used liquid paraffin in the rice pud instead of marg!) Then there was the Big House Hostel. Marginally more comfortable although they could be stately homes or Victorian farm houses! 6 to 8 to a bedroom, again in bunk beds (Army blankets and we did have sheets) bathrooms and reasonable laundry facilities, also reasonably warm.

That's Hostels!

Work from Hostels

Fruit, Veg & any other kind of picking. Sprouts with ice on. Mangle Wurzels for cattle fodder. Sugar beet to eke out the nation's sugar ration. And endless potatoes! Bean Topping. Broad and Runner. To keep beans at reasonable height the tops had to be pinched out. It took a week to top one farm's beans and then it was time to start again. Six times in all.

Other Jobs (Wet Days). Potato Riddling. You put them on a gigantic (electric) riddle. Very small fell through for cattle feed. Next smallest for seed pots and largest for human consumption. (YOU PICKED OUT THE ROTTEN ONES. UGH!) These were put into burys — a huge trench dug in the ground, filled with pots, covered first with straw and then with earth. All root veg were treated in this way.

Threshing was another rainy day job. In a barn you threshed the corn with flails, very dusty. On fine days a threshing machines was used — very dangerous. One girl lost a foot when she slipped.

Great News. If the farmer phoned up before 8 on a rainy day, you were "rained off" and had a free day! Normal winter day started at 8 & finished at 5 or 6. Harvesting and Summer 6am to 9 or 10pm. Even fallen asleep over evening meal too tired to eat & fallen into bed fully clothed.

Also — lots of greenhouse work. Veg was most plentiful food in Britain.

Food

Much the same rations as civilians but extra cheese & meat & bread as work was manual. Jar of jam or marmalade a month (used to sweeten porridge. Extra eggs, supplied by local farms. Extra milk for same reason. Many perks (mostly taken to families) — Rabbits. Pig offal.Eggs. Fruit & veg & luxury for relatives Ham & Bacon.

Leisure

Boy friends. Uncountable. Yanks, Poles, R.A.F., Army, local French, Belgian. You name it. We could get it! Cinemas. Pubs. (Beer & shorts in short supply). Plenty of cider. For meals, cafes. Not much choice. Toc H. very good as was the W.V.S. Local hops and Army (Yank & British) dances. Walks. Midnight picnics. The theatre (in my case the Jam Factory — Shakespeare) and E.N.S.A. In the case of the W.L.A. these were usually the 10th rate amateurs and deadly boring!

Girls came from all walks of life and very like school, some nice some not. Lots of arguments. Lots of friends. Chopping & swapping of clothes (Points needed for clothes.) Great to sell clothing coupons on Black Market if you were short of cash & we were! Lace and parachute silk coupon free so undies and nighties made of these. Silk stockings courtesy of the Yanks!