Our Century

Land girls answer the call . .

Staffs Regiment
The Staffordshire Regiment march roudly back on home soil.

Girls from the West Midlands were busy in April answering the call nationally for 30,000 more recruits for the Women's Land Army in the immediate austere post-war period.

And farmers, who at first were doubtful about the women's abilities to cope on the land, were said to be delighted with their efforts.

During the national campaign the Express & Star visited girls who had been tackling the important work for some time, at hostels in Wombourne and Brewood.

The Wombourne hostel had been part of the Land Army for more than two years, having previously been occupied by wartime troops.

Hostel officials said they catered for about 16 girls and boasted that they rarely fell ill - presumably because of their healthy life in the open.

One girl, from West Bromwich, was previously a bookbinder and was now concentrating on market gardening.

After 13 months on the land, she said she loved the work and had now signed on for longer service.

Wolverhampton launched its own recruitment drive for the WLA at the Civic Hall, with the help of BBC announcer, Frederick Allen.

Meanwhile there were reports that many girls who had been demobbed from the services were rejoining after a short taste of civvy street because they "miss the companionship of the other girls and the fun of communal life."

They also found that, unlike civilians, the inconvenience of rationing, coupons and points were a "closed book to them."

A family of heroes: By 1946, heroism was becoming a bit of a habit for the Jones family of Friar Park, Wednesbury.

NOrma Whitehouse
Norma Whitehouse holding a picture of her father and three uncles who won bravery medals.

By the end of the war one of the four brothers had distinguished himself in the nail-biting job of disposing of old shells while the other three had won medals.

The oldest was George who spent most of the war in Scotland as an unexploded-ordnance expert.

Next came Bill, awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry as a gunner in the epic attack on Monte Cassino during the bloody Italian campaign.

Younger brothers Dennis and Fred both served with the South Staffordshire Regiment. In 1946, each received the Dutch Bronze Cross for their courage in the 1944-45 liberation of the Netherlands.

Today, only Bill survives but the family cherishes the memory of four Black Country heroes.

Widow's socksess: A widow from Wednesfield who knitted more than 600 pairs of socks for the forces during the war was given a Red Cross badge of appreciation in April.

Dudley St 1946
The view down Dudley St, Wolverhampton in 1946

Deserved time off: Overworked nursing staff at a Walsall hospital were given a months holiday in May to recuperate while their patients were sent home until their return.

The Pelsall Sanatorium was closed down for this period following an inquiry by Walsall's medical officer.

But the staff situation at Goscote Isolation Hospital was considered to be so bad that it could face permanent closure.

The medical officer said that luckily, he had never known a time when there had been so little infectious disease about.

He went on to say that the staff position was the same at nearly every hospital in the town and the public were going to be taught a severe lesson if they did not allow their daughters to go into nursing. "It is a very serious position," he added.

Immediately post war, the calls were still going out for help as these two advertisements from 1946 show. The emphasis is on building for the future and carrying on the community spirit which was developed during the conflict.

News in brief . . . In May, an appeal for 3,000 collectors in the Wolverhampton, Dudley and Cannock areas for the 33rd celebration of Alexandra Day was made.

It was estimated that 500,000 Alexandra Roses and more than 1,500 motor garlands would be on sale.

In June a Wolverhampton man admitted in Brisbane to having three "wives" in two months - one back in Britain and two in Australia.

In September a 59-year-old Hednesford man who had worked for a time in India opening a colliery died of jungle fever.

The friends and family of Jean McGann, the blonde in the front row, line up at her 21st birthday celebration at the old Causeway Lake School in Wolverhampton.


John Benton
Another memory fixed forever is the end of sweet rationing.