ARMY RECOGNITION: Joan Quick is amused by the time it has taken for the Women's Land Army to gain official recognition.
ARMY RECOGNITION: Joan Quick is amused by the time it has taken for the Women's Land Army to gain official recognition. BELINDA SCOTT

Land army honour for Coffs Harbour woman

RECOGNITION for her work during World War II has taken 62 years to arrive for Coffs Harbour's Joan Quick.

British-born Joan, who celebrated her 93rd birthday in January, has just received her service badge for her three years of work in England's Women's Land Army during the Second World War.

Joan milked cows by hand, drove horse-drawn carts and hefted 10-gallon-milk churns on and off carts and lorries to help feed the British population.

While most men of working age were serving in the armed forces and German U-boats (submarines) were blockading the island nation to shut down supplies from America and Australia, the role of the Land Army women became vital. They are credited with saving Britain from wartime starvation, but because theirs was a civilian organisation, they did not receive the service medals handed out to the troops at the end of the conflict.

Joan, who has just received her badge from the Queen's office in the post, said recipients were really supposed to wear the badge on official occasions only, but she planned to wear it all the time, because she did not have much time left.

Joan worked on two farms, one in Suffolk and another in Devon, milking up to 40 friesian and jersey cows a day by hand.

"Both farms had milking machines installed, but neither of them ever used them," she said.

As a city girl, she found horse harness so confusing, she drew pictures of the straps and buckles to help her learn the process of attaching the pony to the cart. A small woman, she handled the milk churns, which weighed more than 45kg when full, by hoisting them on to her knees and then on to the cart.

"You'd never be allowed to do it these days, but then you never complained about anything," she said.

Those heavy churns cost her dearly. After she began having children, she suffered three prolapses. But there were compensations. It was while working on the land that Joan met Fred, the handsome soldier who was to become her adored husband of 64 years.

That meeting later saw the family living in Africa, Britain and finally Australia, working in agriculture, hospitality, dog boarding kennels, antiques and jewellery.

Joan has since turned her journey into a self-published autobiography, Whatever Next?

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