Land girl Vera wears her badge with pride
They were only ever armed with little more than a pitchfork, but the thousands of women who formed the Land Army were still a vital force during the war.
While the men were away fighting, they took their place on farms to keep the nation fed.
And among them was Vera James, who spent more than four years working on the land in the 1940s.
Now, more than 70 years later, her efforts have been recognised with the presentation of a Land Army and Timber Corps badge.
The widow, who celebrated her 95th birthday on Sunday, received it from the president of the Canterbury branch of the Royal British Legion, Gerry Ferrett, at a family gathering at the Meadow Vale Care Home at Hersden where she lives. She was also presented with flowers by Anne Hill who is chairman of the Kent women’s section of the legion.
Mr Ferrett said: “It was a great pleasure to present Vera with the medal. The Land Army – or land girls as they were called – fulfilled a very important role during the war in making sure there was food on the table.”
Mum-of-two Vera was one of eight siblings who lived most of her life in Peckham where she met husband Jimmy, who also served in the war.
She said she volunteered for the service because she enjoyed the outdoor life.
“I was sent to a farm in Suffolk and they were some of the happiest days of my life,” she said.
“The farmers were initially unhappy about women coming to work on the farm because they didn’t think they would be strong enough. But we proved them wrong. We did everything, even felling trees and the days were long and hard, particularly during the harvest.
“But I also made some great friends and became very fit and got a great suntan. To get a medal is a real surprise and I shall wear it with pride.”
Vera’s daughter Lin, who lives in Seasalter, applied for the badge for her mum after finding an old certificate dating back to 1946 while clearing her house.
It was issued in thanks to Land Army members and signed by the Queen.
“I did a bit of research and found out that mum was eligible for a badge through a Government scheme that was started in 2008. So I applied, using the certificate she already had, and it arrived three weeks later.
“It was such a thrill to get it and see it presented to Mum.”
Top, Vera James, 95, with Canterbury Royal British Legion chairman Gerry Ferrett and above, in her early 20s, working on a farm in the 1940s and the medal