EMMIE HALE of Gornal really started something a
couple of months ago when she shared with us
some of her late husband Charles’s photographs
from his old employer, Hale & Hale of Tipton.
And this week Mrs Hale takes us back in time with
some of her own photos and recollections. They date from
the middle years of the Second World War, when young
Emmie Edmunds of Dudley, as she then was, was drafted
into the Land Army. She told the Bugle all about it.
“I left school in 1938 at the age of 14, and my first job for
a month was at a solicitor’s office in Tipton, for five
shillings a week,” Emmie explained.
“I walked it to work, but I soon realised I didn’t like the
job. So I went to Grainger and Smith’s Tailoring in New
Mill Street, Dudley, known as the Town Mills. I was making
vests — or waistcoats — and sleeves, and it was eight
shillings and sevenpence. I was alright there.
“But when we were eighteen, and the war was well
under way, they came for us. Someone in the office sent for
us, and we were asked whether we wanted to join
the forces, work in munitions, or join the Land Army.
“I chose the Land Army. We knew we were going to be
farmed out somewhere, and I went to Dunley, just outside
“We were sent a uniform, and went on the train to Foregate
Street in Worcester. We were piled onto lorries and
each ferried off to where we’d been assigned.
“I stayed at Oakhamptaon House, Dunley, through the
working week, there were several of us staying there.”
Emmie found herself working with girls from all over the
wider Midlands, but among her colleagues were several
fellow Dudley girls, including Nora Jackson, Lily Morris
and Nellie Stringer from the Priory estate, Mary Robinson,
and Sally Raybould from Gornal. The work was a long
way from tailoring, but the girls threw themselves into it
and quickly learned the ropes. And if these photographs
of Emmie’s are any indication, a good time was
had by all.
“We dug trenches, and we got the harvest in,” Emmie
recalls. “For two autumns we went round on a threshing
box, threshing the corn. We travelled by sitting on the
mudguards of the tractor.
“The farmer, Mr Boyle and his wife had their own threshing
box and I would go with Nellie Stringer around the
local farms doing the hay ricks; one farm done then on
to the next one.
“We worked in teams of four, taking the ricks down.
The tractor powered the threshing box via a conveyor
belt, and the men would get up on top of the rick and
throw down the corn, wheat or oats, one sheaf at a time. I’d
be on top of the threshing box and I’d catch it, cut the string
and and throw it into the drum.
“The seed would come out of the back of the machine
and into bags, and the chaff went underneath. If I was on
top, Nellie was underneath, scraping up the chaff which
was piling up. Then at times
we’d swap over. But Nellie was never too keen to be on
the floor doing the chaff, because when you got down
towards the bottom of the rick, the mice and rats who’d
been living in there would start coming out, making a
run for it!”
There were days spent standing in mud up to the
tops of their wellingtons, digging ditches, and there were
gentler times too, picking fruit.
“I enjoyed those couple of years,” Emmie says now. “It
was quite an experience. But some people in recent times
have got the wrong idea of what life was like with the
Land Army. There was a programme on recently about
Land Girls, and they seemed to spend most of their time
lying about and smoking! It was nothing like that at all.”
Life out in the sticks must have seemed a million miles
from the noise and dirt of the industrial Black Country, but
the girls could return to their families weekly if they could
find the means.
“You were allowed to come home at weekends, and
because you were in uniform, anybody would give you a lift
home. The Americans especially would always give you a
lift, and if they’d got a party on, which they usually had,
they’d always invite you and give you a lift there.”
But as the war went on and
the balance of power between
Allies and Axis slowly
shifted, the needs of the
nation changed, and Emmie,
along with other girls who
had experience of tailoring,
found themselves being
called back to their old line of
“I’d been out there for
about two years before I was
fetched back’” says Emmie.
“They brought us back to the
factories, to make khaki uniforms
and battledress. So I
was working for Grainger and
Smiths again, though this
time at an old school building
where they’d installed some
machines; the former Tettenhall
Street School. We worked
six days a week: from 8 till 7
in the week, and 8 till 1 on a
“I was with them until the
war was over. And then I
went back to New Mill Street
where I’d been before it all
Were you a Land Girl? Or
do you have photographs
from a relative who did her
bit on the farms during the
war? We’d love to hear your
stories — write to us at the
usual address, give us a call,
or send an email to