Apparently their uniforms were tight at the knee to stop the rats running up their trousers,” smiles Jackie Greene as she pauses over a striking snapshot of her mother Audrey, a member of the women’s land army in Britain during WWII.

Other mementos include the armband of her mother’s “dress” uniform, ration, clothing and registration cards and a perfectly preserved letter from the Cheshire dairy farmer that Audrey worked for, dated December 1942.

What might come as a surprise, however, is that the letter was posted to Galway and that Audrey was actually an Irish farmer’s daughter. She was one of over 80,000 women who donned dungarees in difficult and often dangerous circumstances to feed Britain during the war, and whose contribution will finally be honoured this year with a monument at the national memorial arboretum in Britain.

Jackie, who lives on an arable and suckler farm in Mageney, Co Kildare, explains how her mother became a land girl.

“She was staying with an aunt in Cheshire when the war broke out,” she says. “With men leaving the farms to fight and the attacks on imports, they were in danger of serious food shortages, so whoever was around just had to roll up their sleeves and start digging.

“A lot of the land girls would have been out of the cities, because anything would have been better than the munitions factories, which were difficult and dangerous places. They wouldn’t have had a clue what was the front or the back end of a horse! But my mother was a farmer’s daughter, so it would have been no bother to her.”

Audrey spent two years in the land army, but after the death of her father she returned to Ireland, got married and farmed herself until she passed away almost 25 years ago. While she only spoke about her time with the land army occasionally, Jackie does remember her stories of seeing the glow of the Liverpool docks in flames, after yet another night of heavy bombing, as she did her morning milk round.

Late last year, however, this fascinating chapter of family history was re-opened when Jackie’s daughter found the Facebook page of the Staffordshire Women’s Food and Farming Union, who plan to erect a monument to the land army this autumn, with £63,000 raised to date and a target of a further £20,000 to cover installation, insurance and maintenance costs. Having sent a contribution, Jackie also bought Christmas cards from the group to post to her own friends and relatives. She soon discovered that she was not alone with her land army connections.

“I sent out about 30 cards and the next thing a school friend rang and said, ‘My mother was in the land army, and so was her sister,’” explains Jackie, who has since learned of several Irish land girls, including one family where four sisters joined up.

But while 24 veteran badges were issued to land girls from Northern Ireland in 2008, under a scheme operated by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), there is very little recorded evidence about the Irish involvement in the land army. However, with the new monument, Jackie feels it’s time that any surviving Irish land girls and their families realise that their vital contribution to the war effort is finally being recognised.

“It’s important that anybody who is still alive knows that their hard work is being honoured,” she says. CL

Do you know somebody who served as a land girl during WWII? We would love to hear the story. Write to Irish Land Girls, Irish Country Living, Irish Farm Centre, Bluebell, Dublin 12 or email