It is often not realised that the Women’s Land Army – something very familiar for WW2 – actually was founded in the Great War. With war volunteers, and then conscription, the farming community rapidly found itself stripped of a workforce and from 1915 women began to take the place of the men in the fields. By 1917 a quarter of a million women were working on farms across Britain.
This unknown Woman’s Land Army worker wears a typical uniform of the period; a wide brimmed hat with the Women’s Land Army badge of the period, a rubberised waterproof jacket very similar to an army despatch riders coat, jodpers, good shoes and leather gaiters. It was very much practical and not stylish.
Women like this did very important work in the Great War, now largely forgotten a century later and somewhat overshadowed by the more glamorous Land Girls of a later generation.
The Post Office Rifles on parade
Members of the Post Office Rifles, assembled in the yard of King Edward Building, London. The Post Office Rifles took part in many of the major battles of the First World War.
In 1914, at the start of the war and aged 19, Dorothy was living in Paris and had a desire to be a war reporter on the front lines, but was unable to get employment because she was a woman, and it was nearly impossible for even male reporters to get to the front line at that time.
She recorded in a later autobiography “I’ll see what an ordinary English girl, without credentials or money can accomplish.” (Lawrence, 41-2). She befriended two English soldiers in a café, and they agreed to give her a uniform which they smuggled into her apartment. She bound her chest, padded her back with sacking and cotton, and her friends taught her to drill and march. She persuaded two Scottish military policemen to cut her hair military style and then dyed her skin using diluted furniture polish to give it a bronzed color. With forged identity papers as Private Denis Smith of the 1st Bn, Leicestershire Regiment she headed for the front lines, eventually arriving at the Somme by bicycle.