Although the “Land Girls” are strongly associated with the Second World War (1939-1945) the Women’s Land Army was actually founded in 1917, only to be disbanded again shortly afterwards at the end of the First World War.
When war began in 1914 Britain imported 60% of its food and by 1916 Britain teetered on the edge of a food crisis with only six weeks’ worth of wheat left to feed the population at home and fighting overseas. The price of food more than doubled and the Ministry of Food introduced “voluntary rationing”, calling on individual’s sense of duty to restrict their own diets to help the war effort.
As male farm-workers were called up their vital roles in food production were taken over by women and older children, who carried out hard manual work to keep farms running and make sure that domestic food production was not interrupted.
More information on wartime food production in the Fens can be found on the Ely WW1 Centenary website.