Land Girl Iris honoured 70 years after her war efforts

HARD WORK Land Girls at work on Pays Farm in Hambledon, and above, a wartime poster
HARD WORK Land Girls at work on Pays Farm in Hambledon, and above, a wartime poster

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SHE toiled for four years at a dairy farm and on milk rounds to do her bit for the war effort.

And almost 70 years later, Iris Vincent has at last been honoured for her work as a Land Girl during the Second World War.

PROUD Iris Vincent with her badge, given to surviving Land Girls

PROUD Iris Vincent with her badge, given to surviving Land Girls

The 82-year-old, who lives in Landport, was brought to tears when her family presented her with the government’s commemorative badge for the Land Army and Timber Corps.

The medallion only came into existence in 2008 after a concerted campaign to honour the thousands of women who kept Britain fed during the war but never received a medal.

‘I can’t believe it’s happened to me,’ said Iris, who signed up to the Women’s Land Army in 1944 at the age of 16.

She added: ‘I was just doing my bit. It was a job and I’ve thought no more about it since but I’m very pleased.’

Iris left her job doing milk rounds near her home in Bishopstoke, near Eastleigh, to go into Land Army digs at a dairy farm in New Milton, where she worked 12-hour days delivering milk and cleaning bottles.

She said: ‘I wanted to be in the army but mum and dad wouldn’t let me so I joined the Land Army instead. I felt I was doing my bit for the war and I absolutely loved it because it was my first time away from home and my landlady treated me very well.

‘I feel what I did was important because I was relieving somebody so he could go and fight in the war. – they needed him more than me.

‘But I was just an ordinary person doing my job. I didn’t do anything special. I enjoyed it and I never expected a medal.’

Iris was among 80,000 girls who volunteered or were conscripted into the Women’s Land Army, with a further 6,000 working in the Women’s Timber Corps – the so-called Lumber Jills whose job was to meet a shortage of telegraph poles and timber by felling trees and operating saw mills.

But while a grateful nation saluted its fighting forces after victory in 1945, the Women’s Land Army – which continued working until 1950 – received scant recognition. That was until 2008 when it was decided that a badge would be created to recognise the women.

Iris’s son Graham only found out about the award recently and sent off an application form last week to surprise his mother.

He said: ‘A lot of people don’t know about this medal and they should look into it. These women deserve a lot of credit for what they did. They are the unsung heroes of the war.’

The badge is being administered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Call 08459 335 577 or visit defra.gov.uk for more information.