A tribute to the nation's unsung food heroines
To commemorate the recent VE day celebrations marking 70 years since the end of WW2, I would like to pay a special tribute to some very special unsung food heroes of the time - The Women's Land Army.
During the second world war a total of around 80,000 women joined forces to keep the country alive and nourished.
Working an average of 50 hours a week and paid around £1 12 pence a week, they ploughed, they hoed, they milked, they sewed, working around the clock to ensure there was food on the civilian table.
I recently went to meet Dorothy Taylor who served the WLA for 3.5 years from the age of 16 and a half. Yorkshire born and bred she was posted to a farm in Hertfordshire where she spent long hours milking the dairy cows and bottling and delivering the milk.
Land girls started work at around 5:30 am and often didn't finish until night fall. Coming from a variety of industries - from office workers to hairdressers they gave up their creature comforts to 'do their bit' to serve the country.
So how have these great efforts been rewarded? In about 2006 Dorothy Taylor initiated a petition for the WLA to receive national commendation for their contribution, which then led to their 'official recognition' in 2008. Members of the
WLA were assigned badges from DEFA (Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs).
Whilst a handful of monuments have been erected across the country in their honour, it is my opinion and the opinion of many that A DEFRA badge is not sufficient commendation for their efforts during the second world war. Whilst they were not actively fighting, they were definitely waging a war to keep hunger at bay.
We are currently in the midst of a health crisis in this country and who better to learn from and be inspired by than these food icons.
I would like to invite you all to join me in paying respect to these amazing individuals, without whom some of us might not be here (well if our parents didn't survive the era we wouldn't have had much hope!)
Thank you Britain's unsung food heroines. We salute you.
Dorothy Taylor - Land Girl
Dorothy is now aged 87 and still hosts talks and events about life as a land girl.
When I asked her what we could learn from the era, to help improve our health now, this is what she advised:
- Learn to cook
- Cook from scratch
- Avoid ready meals
- Waste nothing
- Grow your own where possible
- Eat at the table
Dorothy most certainly is an advocate of Eating For Victory.
Recognising their efforts
There is no doubt that it is largely due to the great efforts of the Women's Land Army and during the 1940's, that the nation can now claim to having been at its healthiest during the war period.
Their knowledge and expertise could go a long way in a era that is plagued with health issues.
Respect and thanks to Dorothy Taylor, Sheila Ellis, Audrey Mead, the late Rita Day and many many more. We could do with thousands more like you.