A few days ago I was writing about the terrible weather in 1947 that my mum (Doreen Buckle) described in the dairy she was keeping at the time.
Although the weather had improved a little by Wednesday 19th February, she recorded that she "went to work feeling very fed up. Snow still on ground."
It snowed again a couple of days later and she noted that it was "freezing" at night.
Meanwhile at work, staff illness meant she had to "manage by myself" and she was "very busy, very tired." She worked as a library assistant at the County Library H.Q. but was sent out to various branch libraries when there was a staff shortage.
Even though she went out to a dance at the weekend and enjoyed herself, she mentioned twice that she was "thinking about joining up."
On Tuesday 25th February she "went to work still feeling pretty fed up. Stayed in at night and started re-knitting old jumper."
During WW2, after clothes rationing had been introduced, the Ministry of Information published pamphlets to encourage people to make their clothes last longer. The aim of clothes rationing was to reduce consumption to free up available factories and workers for war work.
Everyone was allocated points and when buying new clothes they had to hand over some of their points with their cash; garments had a points value which reflected the amount of fabric and labour used in production which was displayed alongside the price.
In 1947 clothes were still rationed and the 'Make-Do-and-Mend' campaign still offered advice on how to repair and recycle old clothes.
To re-knit an old jumper was one way to make-do-and-mend requiring the knitter to unravel the wool of the existing garment, re-wind it into manageable balls and then re-knit it to a new pattern. Anyone who has ever tried this will know that the un-ravelled wool is crinkled by the washing and ironing of the old garment and quite difficult to knit with.
Fortunately clothes rationing was gradually being phased out and had completely ended by 1949.
There were more heavy snowfalls during the night of 26th February and Doreen recorded that she couldn’t get through to work and did the afternoon session at Royston library (in her home village) before going to the "flicks" in the evening.
The next day she managed to get through to work but despite being on time "got told off again" and recorded that she had "decided to join the Land Army if possible."
Even getting her pay of £9 16s 1d didn’t cheer her up. When she went to work on Saturday March 1st she "was told off three times" and was "determined to leave H.Q." She recorded again the next day that she had "decided to see about joining the Land Army."
The Land Army, which was not in any way military, had been introduced during the First World War as a way in which women could join the labour force and work for the good of the country by trying to boost the food supply. At the start of WWII it was re-introduced. At first the recruits were volunteers but later on the Land Army was included in the conscription programme and around 80,000 individuals were involved.
The role has become glamourized by films and TV series but it was anything but. The work was hard and strenuous; the uniforms ill-fitting and uncomfortable although many women found ways to adapt the uniform to make it more tolerable both to wear and to look at. Accommodation was often Spartan and young women from towns and cities found the rural way of life difficult to cope with.
The Land Army was maintained until 1952 to try and boost the availability of home grown food; one can only guess what it must have been like working the land during that dreadful winter of 1947.
On Monday 3rd March Doreen "went to work still feeling fed up" and after going to the British Restaurant for lunch went to the Labour Exchange to see about joining the Land Army. She was given an address to write to.
The Labour Exchange (what we now call the Job Centre) was the place to go to get all the information about what work was available. Originally founded in 1910, the exchanges were an integral part of the post-war Welfare State of which the foundation stone was Full Employment.
Because she was under 21 Doreen needed her father’s permission to join the Land Army. This he refused to give so her plans to escape Library H.Q were scuppered.