In recent years the Second World War's land girl has caught the public imagination. We've seen her in films, television series and novels. We might be misremembering her, we might have distorted her image into one that suits a twenty-first century audience, but we haven't forgotten.
Other things have been forgotten, though. One could be forgiven for supposing that the story of the Women's Land Army starts in 1939. But its a much older and more complicated history.
British agricultural policy during the First World War was held up as a success story; coming through a great national emergency, domestic food production was higher at the end of the war than at the start, the average calorific value of the British diet barely changed and bread never had to be rationed here. As the press reported starvation and food riots overseas, the 1918 harvest was held up as one of the great achievements of the War. In 1917, at the darkest hour, when Britain's food security looked most precarious, it was said that, If it were not for the women agriculture would be absolutely at a standstill on many farms.
Is that true? Were women really keeping the wheels turning? Using previously unpublished accounts and photographs, this book is an attempt to understand how the return of women to the fields and farmyards impacted agriculture - and, in turn, an examination of how that experience affected them. This is the story of the First World War's forgotten land army.