Award finally recognises former landgirls' hard work during World War II

Dulcie Eccleshall and Myra Hughes with the new award.
Petra Finer

Dulcie Eccleshall and Myra Hughes with the new award.

Receiving a slip of paper and a tiny badge has righted a 70-year wrong for two Hawera women.

Dulcie Eccleshall, 91, and Myra Hughes, 92, received certificates and lapel badges in recognition of their service to New Zealand as land girls during World War II.

Both women signed up in 1940 and worked hard on South Taranaki dairy farms until the war ended and the men returned home.

They earned between £1 16s ($3.60) and £2 01s ($4.10) per week and never complained because, Hughes said, the work had to be done.

Land girls were required to wear uniforms in public and served in New Zealand but were not recognised or allowed to join the returned services association at the time.

"It was the first time in my life I ever had a pay book," Hughes said.

The man she worked for wasn't kind.

"I couldn't stand that man. He'd have a sleep while I was out cutting thistles," she said.

"We did it and there was no talk about it. It was done. We didn't talk about women's rights or anything like that."

But Hughes wanted to be recognised. Without a service number however, they never felt official.

They weren't shot at but they fought in the way they could.

Eccleshall said all of the girls worked more than eight hours.

"Some farmers treated them like dogs, called by the surnames or some were called girl."

Some were not allowed to eat with families and many endured the unwanted advances of their male bosses. Some found love and married their employers.

"They were trained in England and Australia before they went on to farms but New Zealanders went straight away, just sent to farms, and you had to take what you got."

When the war ended both women rejoined their families until marrying farmers.

The Taranaki land girls caught up from time to time and reminisced about their shared experiences. They formed a solid and supportive group early into their service and carried that throughout their lives.

"We really wanted to join the services," Hughes said.

"We wanted to be recognised but also we wanted to be part of, but we couldn't, we couldn't ever be a part of."

ABOUT LAND GIRLS:

As World War II progressed, many young New Zealand women volunteered for organisations supporting the war effort, like the Women's Land Service. Others were 'manpowered' – directed to work in essential industries on the home front. Some women were put in jobs traditionally carried out by men, like engineering and making munitions. People already working in essential industries had to keep doing so, often for low pay. Some essential jobs were unpopular, like those in mental hospitals and food canneries. To avoid them, many women sought out specific work, or volunteered for the armed forces. Women with children were exempt from manpowering. Source: Te Papa, http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/WhatsOn/exhibitions/SliceofHeaven/Exhibition/InternationalRelations/Pages/ww2object.aspx?irn=2542

AWARD APPLICATIONS:

The people who qualify for the certificate are:

Any veteran with qualifying operational service under the Veterans' Support Act 2014. (A list of qualifying operational service is attached)

Civilians who deployed with the New Zealand Defence Force and took part in qualifying operational service under the Veterans' Support Act 2014

Recipients of the New Zealand Operational Service Medal (NZOSM) who have had service with the New Zealand Armed Forces or the New Zealand Police

Land Girls (with the Women's Land Service in New Zealand) during the Second World War.

Evidence required:

With your application please provide evidence of your service, if you have it. This could be:

A copy of your service record, posting card, flight logs

Documented evidence of the award of the NZOSM

Any other documented evidence you have that provides a record of your qualifying service for the Certificate and Badge. If you have no documentation, Veterans' Affairs will do our best to undertake the verification on your behalf. For further information Call Veterans' Affairs on freephone 0800 483 8372 or (64) 4 495 2070 (if calling from overseas) Or visit www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz

 - Stuff

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