Local ‘Land Girls’

The Women’s Land Army (WLA) was established during World War 1 as the Government, needed to re-vitalise home agriculture, fearing food shortages.


The girls of the Land Army looked after animals, ploughed the fields, dug up potatoes, harvested crops and killed rats. As there was not enough machinery to go round they often had to work with old fashioned equipment, such as horse-drawn hand ploughs, and to harvest crops by hand.

Main pic (top): The wedding of Frances Addison to Driver Jack Apps at Wetheral Church on 4th August 1945. Left pic: Geltsdale, Wetheral. Right pic:Ratcatching – Bettie Baird learning to set rat traps.

Three years ago I researched this subject for a local book ‘Wetheral and Great Corby – a local history’ together with co-writer Denis Perriam. In 1943 the Women’s Land Army had a hostel at Wetheral, namely ‘Geltsdale’ (formerly RAF Wetheral). We had very little to go on but Denis had found a land army wedding photograph in the Cumberland News dated 4 August 1945. The caption recorded – The wedding of Driver Apps (Kent) to Frances Addison (Great Orton) at Wetheral Church.

Driver Apps was in army uniform. I decided to ask, through the licensee of the Wellington pub in Great Orton, if anyone knew where the Addison’s had lived and found out that it was Red House Farm. I telephoned the farm and spoke to the owner who was a nephew of Frances but had lost contact, as she had moved to Kent shortly after her marriage. He thought that she lived in West Yorkshire in a town beginning with ‘W’, he couldn’t really remember. I prompted him with Wakefield and he thought that could be it! I then went onto the online phonebook and searched for ‘Apps’ in Wakefield. There were only two entries. I telephoned the first and, lo and behold, Frances, now in her 80’s answered. Her husband Jack was still with her and in his early 90’s.

I mentioned the photograph in the paper and she said that she had never even seen it, as they went on honeymoon straight after the wedding and, although it had been promised, they never received a copy. That had been a great disappointment to her. I promised her a copy, although I could only provide a poor image copied from the newspaper. She promised me photographs and reminiscences from the time to be sent by her daughter.

A few days later Denis phoned me – ‘Have you seen the Cumberland News? – an article on the Land Girls with a very clear image of Frances Apps’ wedding.’ The picture had been sent in by Vera Timperon of Scotby, who was one of the guard of honour at the wedding. Vera and also Bettie Baird featured in the article and provided a wealth of information and photographs of their experiences. The bonus to me was that I was able to send Frances and her husband, forty three years after the event, a high quality A4 print of the wedding photograph they had never seen, and put them back in touch with Vera, a long lost friend.

David Ramshaw
Author: David Ramshaw

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© Stuart Fraser - Landscape Artist