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Experiences of War : Women and War : Women’s auxiliary services and Land Army

Shortages of labour during World War Two led to the establishment of women's auxiliary services attached to the Army, Navy and Airforce. The Australian Women's Army Service, mobilised between 1941 and 1947, was raised to release service men for front line duties; the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, established in 1941, employed women as telegraphists, drivers and clerical staff; and the Women's Australian Auxiliary Air Force, which operated between 1941 and 1947, employed women as aircraft ground staff, wireless telegraphists, administrators and signals operators.

The deployment of men to the armed forces also caused a shortage of labour for farmwork. In each state women joined the informal 'land armies', which were absorbed by the Commonwealth's official Australian Women's Land Army in 1942. In South Australia, the State Superintendent of the South Australian Land Army, Dorothy Marshall, supervised the allocation of women to the various types of farm work and also for work in the canneries and packinghouses.

Land Army women worked 48 hour weeks and were either paid the industry award rate, or else 30 shillings a week with board and keep. Members were strictly disciplined in their personal presentation, as can be seen from a directive issued in a three page circular, dated 27 April 1945, giving detailed rules for the wearing of both street clothes and working uniforms.

Hat - This must always be worn, and at a smart angle to suit the wearer. Care must be taken that there is no exaggeration in turning the brim and that the hat is not worn at the back of the head.

However, service as a Land Army volunteer offered opportunities to flout some established social conventions. South Australian Land Army recruit, Frances Harvie, recorded in her diary the reaction to her short hair and functional clothing adopted for her service as a farm labourer in the south-east of South Australia,

And at Robe.........when the Bishop and Mrs Robin were staying there too, I went into a shop, wearing Khaki shorts and aertex blouse "yes, sir"? asked the man behind the counter. Of course I got a lot of stares when I went into Communities until they got used to the sight. And I also heard many varied opinions. On the average, young people of my own age said it suited me, but older folks didn't like it. Too old fashioned!

Many former Land Army members have described their time with this force as enjoyable, one which gave urban women an opportunity to experience rural life. Frances Harvie's final diary entry records her sadness at leaving the family and friends she had worked with,

Tuesday 18 December, 1945. I really was sorry to leave this time. They all took me to Naracoorte to catch the train, and I didn't want to go a bit. You can't hold back Time though I often wish you could on many occasions. Salva gave me another packet of cigarettes with "no fichettaio foto" pathetically written on the top and "gubai" on the bottom, Ray took our photos. and teased me much about his feeling 'de trop' and I would have time just to go and say a proper goodbye. Very sad. Goodbye South East. Will I ever see you again- The end of the second phase of my life-

At Rifle Practice
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Australian Women's Land Army Demobilization Circular
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Diary of Frances Taylor
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Dorothy Marshall
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Girl on horseback rounding up cattle
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Land Army days
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Land Army: clothing and equipment
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Land girl Frances Taylor (nee Harvie) driving a farm ca
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Land girl with an Italian prisoner of war
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Letter of appreciation
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Letter to Frances Taylor (nee Harvie)
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Letter to Frances Taylor (nee Harvie) about work at the
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