I recall Mum mentioning that the mother of a girl at school had been in the land army in WW2 – Recruitment Poster below.
So, as we were in the 75th anniversary years of WW2, I decided to investigate. I had sent away for David’s aunt’s WW2 record but it had not arrived when I commenced on this post.
From Trove – Australian Women’s Register
“On 27 July 1942, the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA) was established as a national organisation, reporting to the Director-General of Manpower. The aim of the AWLA was to replace the male farm workers who had either enlisted in the armed services or were working in other essential war work such as munitions. The AWLA was not an enlisted service, but rather a voluntary group whose members were paid by the farmer, rather than the government or military forces. Membership of the AWLA was open to women who were British subjects and between the ages of 18 and 50 years. Housed in hostels in farming areas, members were given formal farming instruction and were initially supplied with uniform, bedding etc. Members were not engaged in domestic work rather they undertook most types of work involved with primary industries. The organisation was to be formally constituted under the National Security Regulations, but a final draft of the National Security (Australian Women’s Land Army) Regulations was not completed until 1945, and did not reach the stage of promulgation due to cessation of hostilities and the decision to demobilize the Land Army.  A ‘Land Army’ was established in each state and administered that state’s rural needs, though some members were sent interstate when available. In September 1945 it was decided that complete demobilization of the Australian Women’s Land Army would take effect not later than 31 December 1945.”
Women were encouraged to join a range of services – recruitment poster.
The AWLA was headquartered in Martin Place Sydney, and there was a lot of advertising to attract women into the Land Army like this August 4 1944 ad in the South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus (via Trove)
Some of the sources I found on the AWLA were :
- Australian Women’s History Forum
- Australian War Memorial – research tips for AWLA – information sheet
- AWM – The Home Front in WW2
- Trove Resources
- Virtual RSL
- Digger History
- John Oxley Library
- State Library Queensland – more
- Radio Interviews
- Speech by Russell Mathieson in Federal Parliment in 2012
- Monument in Bathurst
- Camden Library Local Studies Blog
- AWLA Overalls pattern
- Inside History
- Senator John Faulkner
- Images of the Australian Womens Land Army
Apparently only the NSW Service Records have survived. The women were paid less than the men for doing the same tasks, and Aboriginal Women like Faith Bandler who joined the AWLA, were paid even less.
A Youtube video compilation shows gives an indication of their experiences.
Illawarra women I have found in the Australian Womens Land Army include
- ? Askew – Wollongong
- June Barlogie – Thirroul
- Nina Hesse – Kiama – spent her Sydney University break in the AWLA at Leeton working on sultana vines, lemon and orange trees
- Nellie Hurt – Wollongong
- Pat McGee – Mt Keira – who was based at Young, and later at Griffith – picking and canning tomatoes
- Florence Irene Makin – Coniston
- Mary Redfern – Austinmer
- Evelyn Rees – Wollongong – based in South Australia, Western Australia, at Griffith, at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and was to undertake studies at Hawkesbury Agricultural College
Several at least were at Griffith and below are images of Land Army Girls at Griffith in WW2 – sourced from AWM AWLA Collection.
By 1943 it was reported that “The strength of the Women’s Auxiliary Services is as follows: W.R.A.N.S.,’ 971 ; A.W.A.S., 15,400; ‘ W.A.A.A.F., 15,847; Nursing Services, 8042. In addition, the Women’s Land Army is now about 2,000 strong
Another ad from the Illawarra Mercury 12.3.1943 (via Trove)
A letter also appeared in the Kiama Reporter and Illawarra Journal of 23rd August 1944 :
A MESSAGE To,Girls And Women Of Kiama
Miss Helen Noakes, Recruiting Officer for the Australian Women’s Land Army writes : We understand how in a richly agricultural district such as Nowra, where dairying is so important an industry; and where local Land Girls are doing so grand a job at home on the farms, very few may consider themselves either free or eligible to join officially the Government’s Australian Women’s Land Army. The purpose of this letter to you is to tell you we have a Land Army Auxiliary membership for seasonal workers. You may join our Auxiliary for periods of not less than three weeks, and not more than six months at a time. Girls should be sixteen years of age to thirty-five years, for membership as seasonal workers. This seasonal work can be done in your annual holidays. It can mean a chance to have fun; a chance to leave your own district and meet new friends; a chance to see other parts of New South Wales; a chance for camp comradeship and for adventure. From October of this year until March of next year, we will be needing the help of many hundreds of seasonal workers. Girls from the cities will work during their holidays with us on the Food Front. From factories, shops, offic es and banks, they will come. And what about you? Districts applying to our organisation for helpers will be Bathurst, Exeter, Young, Orange, Leeton, Grifith, Yenda, Batlow and many others. An advertisement regarding enrolment in the Women’s Land Army appears, in this Issue.
Above artwork is from the AWM Collection – AWLA Smoko Time
After the war the women in the Australian Womens Land Army only had limited access to the Post War Reconstruction Training Scheme Programme. It took over 40 years till 1997 for their service to be recognised and for some of the women to receive the Civilian Service Medal.