The Land Girl’s Lament: Tracking a mystery poet

This is the story of trying to find a lost land girl.

It began when a poem recently arrived at the MERL (reference D DX2222, to be exact). It is written by a Land Girl who talks of both the perceptions and the reality of what a land girl does. The person who gave us the poem, though, had purchased the item with no information about who had written it.
We do, however, know the name of the land girl, because she signed it. She was Jean Walker.

A typed letter showing a poem

The poem is typed over eight pages, with handwritten annotations. We first wanted to find some clues about Jean Walker’s location first, and there are two references that could help.
The first is when the poem describes trying to get the animals to safety during a flood on Page 4 paragraph 2, as well as after the storm on page 7, paragraph 5:

An image of a typed poem
An image of a typed poem
We wondered if this was referring to Grange [Farm], somewhere near Tattenham Corner.
Luckily the poem does mention other colleagues on page 3, paragraph 4:
An image of a typed poem

The annotations on the typescript indicate that Pitts and Walker (not a relative) are farm workers and Ash is the manager.
We wondered: had the poem been published? We checked The MERL library for any poems published during this period to see if we could find a Jean Walker. While we do hold a copy of Poems of the Land Army: an anthology of verse by members of the Women’s Land Army– and in fact have it on public display – but Jean Walker’s poem is not included.

An image of the cover of a book on land girl poetry
Our next step will be to look through microfiche copies of index cards in MAF 421, an Index to Service Records of the Second World War, and which is held at the National Archives. The index cards can show name, address, date of birth, Women’s Land Army number and occasionally present occupation, where transferred to and when demobilised.

We’ve currently not found out any more, but if anyone has any information that may help our quest to find Jean Walker please contact merl@reading.ac.uk.

Poetry is currently an exciting focus for The MERL as we have our first poet in residence, Jack Thacker – keep an eye on our blog for updates from him soon!

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One thought on “The Land Girl’s Lament: Tracking a mystery poet”

  1. I have an Aunty who will be 100 in July , she serve in the Land Army in WW2, she lived in Kensington London W11. She has been in hospital recently, she is at home now, but we are unable to visit her . I am printing her some poems for her to read. She worked in the area where Heathrow is now and that is where is met her husband,
    Maybe you have some more info, just trying to find information that she could read

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