Experiences in the New Zealand Land Army 1943 to 1945

Joyce O. Powell

1943 to 1945


It was October 1943 and my marine fiancee had left with the 2nd Marine Division for combat with the Japanese in the South Pacific. I was 18, just old enough to join one of the armed forces but neither of my parents would sign forms giving me permission to join, fearing I might be posted overseas. So I decided I would join the Land Army as that did not require parents’ signatures. Within 2 weeks of joining I had a farm job to go to away up out of Te Awamutu.

November 18th I boarded the Wellington Auckland overnight troop train leaving Wellington at 7pm. That was quite a trip too remember. I arrived at the Te Awamutu railway station at 5am next morning to find there was noone  there to meet me, but there was a couple there on the station who had expected their son in the airforce to be on that train and he was not. So they took me home to their place for breakfast and then back to the station. By that time the farmer who I was to work for and his family were there to take me out to the farm. Being a city girl in Wellington all my life everything felt quite strange and overwhelming, especially that there were 6 children in the family and I was an only child. I soon found I was not going to be happy working there as I was teased about being a city girl, and they would put the bull in the milking shed bails and I would be so scared when I went to leg rope what I thought would be a cow and found the bull standing there. Funny now but not then. The farmer and his wife would not allow me to stop working in the crops and join them for morning and afternoon “smokos”. So after 3 unhappy weeks I was able to leave there. The headquarters in Hamilton had another job waiting for me. This farm was located in the Horsham Downs district about 14 miles out of Hamilton. A really nice happy family and good living and working conditions. The work was rather hard, helping milk near 70 cows, then dragging deep drains aroung 4 sides of each paddock, but being young and strong I survived it. After 6 months I left there for Hawkes Bay as my parents had moved up there from Wellington.

A week after arriving in Hastings I was assigned to a large sheep and cattle station 20 miles from Waipawa. Well, I only stayed there 3 weeks as I had a room outside attached to a shed, bare boards, no heat, etc etc, and the farmer and his wife were very snobbish. I phoned the Land Army Department in Hastings and asked them for another job. They told me they would not be sending out any more girls to the place I was leaving as none of the girls they had sent there stayed more than 2 weeks.

My next job was 20 miles out of Hastings on another sheep and cattle station, and was only to be for a few weeks. The living and working conditions were really good, in fact I did very little farm work because I was mostly helping in the house and cooking as the wife of the farmer had a new baby. When I had to leave there the Land Army Department did not have another job available for me so I had to go into an essential industry until another farm job became available. So I chose to work at Watties Canneries until the department had another position for me.

Whana Whana 30 miles from Hastings was the next and last Land Army job I had. The living and working conditions were excellent, but again the farmer and his family were very snobbish. I had my own nice living room, bedroom and bathroom, but was not allowed to have my meals with the family or socialise in any way with them. If I rode to town in the car with the farmer I was told by the wife I had to sit in the back seat. This kind of snobbishness was quite foreign to me. I enjoyed the variety of work there and had many pleasant experiences. I did not do any work with the animals on any of the sheep stations, just mainly cleaning up jobs and gardening. While there I met one of the men who worked for my boss’s brother and eventually married him.

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  • Joyce Tickner, later Powell

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