Land Army veteran is finally recognised
Elizabeth Bartlett has told how she lost her leg on the first day working as a Women's Land Army volunteer and had to wait almost 75 years for compensation. Now 97, Elizabeth was just 21 when she gave up her job in a Sheffield steelworks to join the war effort in October 1941. She was sent to a farm 220 miles away in Kent, but fell into a threshing machine on her first day, suffering a devastating injury.
I had worked on the machine in the morning but when I went to stand on it in the afternoon, someone had moved a board and I fell into the machine. My leg went into the machine, then I remember lying on top of the machine and thinking about a lot of things. I didn’t have too much pain then; it came later on when I was in hospital. I remember going to hospital in an open back farm van and going straight in for an operation.Elizabeth
Elizabeth was one of 80,000 women who signed up for the home-based force to take farming and industrial jobs to help the war effort. Many were the victims of crippling industrial accidents but their injuries received little support from government authorities. Elizabeth even rejoined the Women's Land Army (WLA) once she learned how to walk again on a rudimentary false leg.
I remember coming out of the anaesthetic and being told off by the matron for making too much noise. I shut up after that! From then on no-one contacted me, there was no interest in me, but i just got on with lifeElizabeth
Blesma petitioned to win Elizabeth a war pension but the case was initially thrown out and a subsequent appeal lost. She was eventually granted compensation, although it was only backdated five years - from when Blesma took up her case.
Elizabeth is very stoic and gets on with life without a shred of bitterness, but i was shocked by how she was dealt with. She had served her country in the Land Army and, although she had never complained, she deserved compensation. Elizabeth doesn’t feel any hostility to the authorities which is an amazing attitude considering how harshly she was treated. If she had been hit by a doodlebug she would have been on a full war pension. I don’t see the difference as she was serving her country and the WLA was recognised as a military organisation.BLESMA SUPPORT OFFICER BILL GILLETT
Elizabeth's boyfriend at the time came to visit in hospital on his way out to serve with an artillery regiment. He was killed in action a few weeks later, which meant she had to deal with heartbreak, come to terms with limb loss and get to grips with using a rudimentary prosthetic leg - all at the same time.
Later, after the war, Elizabeth married a horticultural expect and worked in gardens and orchards as she and her husband brought up their two children. She now lives in Watlington and District Nursing Home.
Elizabeth is a very modest lady who has clearly overcome some huge challenges in her life but even today, remains stoic and simply gets on with things. To return to the Land Army after the loss of her leg at such a young age is admirable – she deserves her badge of recognition so much and we’re all very proud of her.Julie Cooper, Sanctuary Care’s Home Manager
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