Sprightly Pat Sparke always loved the fresh air.
So when the call came for women to take to the fields during the Second World War she eagerly stepped into the breach and never looked back. Speaking to the Gazette, she recalled her days fighting for Britain as a Land Girl.
Getting up at 5.15am and working till 6pm on the fields came as a bit of a shock to a teenage Pat.
But that was the lot of many women deployed to jobs, usually reserved for men, in an effort to build up the armed forces.
Members of the Women’s Land Army, known as Land Girls, are now to be recognised with a medal for their efforts through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Pat, 85, said: “All I wanted to do was something sporty. I went to the office to think about what I was going to do but then the war started and we didn’t get much choice – we had to do something helpful. I didn’t want to go into ammunition so I joined the Land Army.”
Having previously worked in an office her father’s response to the news that she was going to agricultural college was: “I bet you’re home in a week”.
However, Pat lasted more than a week and despite a brief return to an office after the war she spent the rest of her working life in the fields of Home Farm in Ickenham.
After being accepted as a Land Girl she endured several gruelling weeks at agricultural college before being sent to Cyril Saiche’s farm to milk and tend to a herd of Guernsey cows.
She said: “It was quite a shock. We got to wear trousers which women didn’t do back then when they went to work and I thought that would be good fun. I should never have thought about milking a cow before – I was scared of cows.”
During her time on the farm, she became particularly fond of Sis, a Shire horse used to plough the fields.
“She was my favourite but she was a bit of a handful; very stubborn.”
Pat finally stopped working on the farm when she got married in 1949.
Talking of the medal and her wartime experience, she added: “You didn’t have time to be emotional you just got on with it.
“I think it’s a good thing but it’s 50 years too late. There can’t be many of us left now.”