SEVENTY years after members of the Australian Women’s Land Army left their homes for rural areas to run farms for soldiers at war, the group will finally be recognised.
One of World War II’s lesser-known groups, the land army was formed as part of a plan to help boost the numbers of men going to war by employing women to help run farms.
On August 20, the remaining members will gather at the committee room of Parliament House to be officially recognised for their efforts. Kiama’s Valerie Love will be among them.
Mrs Love was just 15 when she volunteered, increasing her age by three years so she could join one of her best friends, Peggy Williams, who had already turned 18.
“I was a city girl from Homebush, although it was nothing like Homebush today – with plenty of paddocks, cows and horses,’’ Mrs Love said. ‘‘I just loved the outdoor life and couldn’t wait to get involved.
“It was 1942 and everyone was trying to do their bit for Australia, and my first posting was to Leeton in the Riverina.
‘‘I had never been out in the country before, so it was a great experience.
“We did a variety of jobs, including fruit and vegetable picking as well as looking after sheep and cattle – I absolutely revelled in it.
‘‘Peggy stayed mainly in Leeton, but I ‘chummed up’ with another lass who we roomed with and we moved all over.”
The furthest the pair travelled was Renmark in South Australia to pick grapes.
“We used to travel by train, and each stop someone from the farm would come along and say ‘I’ll have you, you and you’, and off we’d go,’’ Mrs Love said.
Despite her elation at finally being recognised for the army’s efforts, Mrs Love was disappointed that it has taken so long for that acknowledgement to come.
“It took us until 1984 before we were finally able to march on Anzac Day and now a lot of those ladies have now passed on and will never know that our efforts were truly appreciated,” she said