North Devon in 100 Objects 34

34. The Land Army Embroidery

This embroidered tablecloth records the names and celebrates the work of women at the Braunton Bulb Farm during the Second World War.

The Braunton Bulb Farm was established by Seymour Cobley Ltd in 1923 on poor, rabbit-infested sandy soil at the edge of the Great Field and Braunton Burrows.  They built greenhouses for daffodils, tulips, irises and gladioli, and grew murphies (white potatoes) at Sandy Lane Farm.

After the outbreak of war in 1939 more vegetables were needed.  Many of the 250 workers joined up and more labour was needed.  Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi advances in Europe were joined by Land Girls, part of the 80,000 strong Women’s Land Army. At first they were volunteers, but later some were conscripted.

By 1941 the farm had 368 acres under production in Braunton and Georgeham. The Land Girls remembered very hard work, driven by the “tartar” Mrs Snell.  The farm’s proximity to Chivenor Airfield meant that there was a constant threat of bombing – 12 bombs landed on the farm, doing considerable damage.

There were some lighter moments.  Girls remember stripping off in the glasshouses, where the temperatures could reach 100 degrees.  Towards the end of the war the US Army established camps as part of the D-Day preparations and the GIs would bring them treats – pork and chocolate.

This tablecloth was signed by a group for the land girls when they left the farm in 1945, and then embroidered.  Needlework must have been quite a change from lifting murphies!

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