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Remembering the women on Poppy Day

5 November 2015 by Sam

woman in uniform

Iris M Newbould, Women’s Land Army © Lee Karen Stow

Photographer Lee Karen Stow shares the story of another one of the women she met during the research for her exhibition Poppies: Women and War, which is currently on display at the Museum of Liverpool.

Don’t forget that Lee will be back at the Museum to hold a free photography workshop and tour of the exhibition on Saturday 14 November. Full details of this and other events are on our Remembrance events page.

“In Whitehall, London, a few strides north of the Cenotaph and the tomb to the unknown soldier is the Monument to the Women of World War II. This tall, bronze pillar, sculpted by artist John W Mills, is a giant coat rack. Seventeen types of uniform, representing the roles thousands of women undertook during the war, hang on coat hooks, symbolising their job done. Unveiled by the Queen in 2005, this monument of recognition was a long time coming.

One of the uniforms represents members of the 80,000-strong Women’s Land Army (WLA). Women like Iris Newbould, now aged 90. Iris is one of the few ‘Land Girls’ still around to share memories of digging up spuds, sorting the chaff, felling trees, catching rats, ploughing and milking the cows on bitterly cold mornings. Physically demanding work, but which freed male agricultural workers to serve on the front lines, and helped feed a nation.

I met Iris a few years ago, when I photographed her in her garden allotment, and we have kept in touch since. All being well I will see her this Sunday on Remembrance Day, in her uniform, paying her respects and no doubt chatting about the highs and lows of being a Land Girl.

A keen poet, she offered to write a poem in memory of her father, and a day she never forgets:

Poppy Day (Memories of November 1932)
by Iris M Newbould, Women’s Land Army

monument

Leonie Eve Laws, a young woman of today, pays her respects at the Women’s War Memorial in Whitehall © Lee Karen Stow

‘Why do we have Poppy Day, Daddy, why?’
The shrill echo creeks down the years
To fill my mind with sweet recall
Of a parent’s love, the best gift of all.

‘Because it’s Remembrance Day, my child,
Put on your poppy, I trust you have prayed,
Now, watch out for Daddy, he is on parade.’
‘But why, Daddy? I already did it last year.’

‘Lest we forget, my dear, for as we live and dream
Too busy to remember, they too had dreams.’
They now lay dead, where the poppies grow.
The band plays on, silver trumpets glow
Hymns and prayers echo in the silent streets.

The Cenotaph falls silent, poppies lay crisp
On the frost, their glowing redness
Warms the hearts of father and child.
They wander off, side by side
In peace, they live in the moment
Content, rejoicing in just being
‘tis enough.

[In memory of a beloved father 1900-1974]”

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.