Special memories for Land Girl 75 years on

DOROTHY Hewitt was an unsung hero of the Second World War, something that appeared highly unlikely as she stood at just 5ft 2in.

 

Dorothy Hewitt

She was one of 80,000 members of the Women’s Land Army that was formed so women could work in agriculture, replacing men called-up to the military.

And 75 years after becoming a Land Girl, Dorothy has been reminiscing about the two years she spent working on a farm in Cheshire.

Dorothy, 92, who lives in the Castle Hall area of Stalybridge, admitted it was a culture shock as the townie suddenly had to become a country girl.

She said: “I was scared of cows so it was certainly a shock to learn to milk them by hand in winter and by machine in summer.

“When the farmer spoke about making silage, it was double Dutch to me. And when I saw a huge concrete tunnel in a field, I wondered what on earth it was – a silo in which it was stored.”

Dorothy Norton, as she was as a teenager, can still vividly how the wet grass and molasses were layered.
She recalled: “I had six boys from the local borstal working with me.

“As I was small and underweight I didn’t have the strength to do some of the jobs.

“When it came to carting hay or corn, I didn’t have the strength to throw it on top. I would be on the top helping to stack it.”

Dorothy also learned to plough with horses, explaining the farm’s tractor was seldom used for that work.

There were two German prisoners-of-war who helped out on the farm as well as conscientious objectors, patients from a nearby mental hospital and RAF personnel when they weren’t serving.

It was a far from the world which only-child Dorothy knew in Stalybridge – she began work on her 14th birthday at Calico Printers in Carrbrook where she worked in the ‘soap house office’ that was in the cloth printing section.

Dorothy, who signed up to become a Land Girl on her 18th birthday, said: “I was an only child and never been away from Stalybridge so it was a big adventure.

“It was a completely different way of life, but one I loved.

“And it changed my life as I met my husband Reg, who was in the RAF, at a dance at Barley that was between Holmes Chapel and Middlewich.”

She especially liked the train ride from Stockport to Holmes Chapel, saying they were packed with troops and always a lot of fun.

After an initial one month’s training at Reaseheath College, Cheshire, to “knock off the edges”, Dorothy was sent to Mill Lane Farm, Cranage, that would become home for two years. It was the home of Norman and Doris Hardern.
Dorothy said: “I was one of the lucky ones as I lived on the farm whereas a lot of the Land Girls were in hostels and taken to the farms by lorry.

“I became part of the family and we became so close that I became godmother to their two sons.”
Indeed, the bond that was forged was so strong that Edward, 75, the elder on her two godsons, still visits Dorothy regularly from his home in Macclesfield.

Dorothy added the only recreation was going to dances on a Saturday night, and that was where she met Reg who would become her husband of 63 years.

They would borrow bikes to go and Dorothy recalls one occasion when they only had one and she sat on the handle bars as the pair weaved their way along the Cheshire lanes to a dance.
Dorothy and Reg had two daughters Barbara and Brenda who live in Oxford and France.

And Dorothy still visits her Brenda in France travelling independently by four different trains.
After being raised in Ashton, Dorothy has lived in Stalybridge since the age of five, initially on Brushes and then the Hague estate on Ridge Hill.

She was also been a parishioner at St George’s Church, where she was married, for more than 70 years.

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