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The moving story behind Sheffield’s ‘girls in green’ as World War Two heroes set to be remembered

Local land army girl Hilda Wyatt (far right) and colleagues in World War Two
Local land army girl Hilda Wyatt (far right) and colleagues in World War Two

Thousands of local women signed up to be ‘girls in green’ and ended up becoming everything from lumberjacks - or ‘lumber jills’ as they were named - to tractor drivers and rat catchers on farms.

They were all part of the Women’s Land Army which was formed in June 1939 – just weeks before the outbreak of World War 2.

On Saturday and Sunday, September 16 and 17, Ecclesall Woods Discovery Centre will be hosting a weekend celebration to highlight the work of thousands of the region’s women that were regularly sent hundreds of miles to spend the war toiling on the land. The Women’s Land Army were tasked with ensuring the country didn’t starve.

Local land army girl Winifred Priestley (nee Hancock) that will be celebrated at the event
Local land army girl Winifred Priestley (nee Hancock) that will be celebrated at the event

The event is part of the WEA Women on the Land Project, which is supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Organisers are keen to hear from anyone with memories of South Yorkshire’s ‘girls in green’.

The Women’s Land Army and Lumber Jills (Timber Corps) helped support the agricultural landscapes of the country during WW2 and, after the war, continued to grow food to support the reconstruction of Europe.

The women were stationed on farms and in purpose-built hostels – the organisation was finally disbanded in November 1950, five years after war ended.

The project has uncovered stories of the brave South Yorkshire women that left their homes and families to do their bit for the war.

Winifred Ruth Priestley, born Ruth Hancock, left her job soldering aircraft parts at J.G.Graves to join the Timber Corps – she spent the majority of the war chopping trees down in Nottinghamshire.

Dorothy Crofts, originally from the Kelvin area of Sheffield, also enlisted for the Timber Corp and after four weeks training in Wetherby worked all around the country.

Project organiser Richard Godley said: “You could say the ‘girls in green’ were the region’s forgotten army when compared to the Women of Steel, but our project is starting to change all that. We’re all about creating a legacy to mark the sacrifices they made and we hope as many people as possible will come along to the event to find out more about these amazing South Yorkshire women.”

The free event will include:

- Exhibition of South Yorkshire Women’s Land Army stories

- Women’s Land Army clothing display

- Launch of research booklet

- A chance to try your hand at traditional crafts like willow working

- Talks, and more.

Further information about the event from Richard Godley on rgodley@btinternet.com