Land girl Zandra star of Wartime Weekend

Date: Friday 17th May 2019

AROUND 4,000 people attended a Wartime Weekend at Brougham Hall, near Penrith, from Friday to Sunday and enjoyed a wide range of attractions and displays.

A popular figure at the event was 92-year-old Zandra Armstrong, from Lazonby, who chatted to many people on Sunday about her experiences serving in the Land Army during the Second World War.

Originally from Ancoats, an industrial district of Manchester which suffered bombing by the Luftwaffe, Zandra joined up at the age of 16, following the example of many of her friends who had already left the area. She was really too young to do so, and chose the Land Army because the required physical examination could be carried out by her own doctor, rather than one employed by the regular Army or RAF.

She trained for a short time at Bangor-on-Dee, North Wales, before going to various hostels for land girls, eventually arriving at one in Lazonby in 1944.

She recalls that she and at least 40 other girls lived in two wooden huts in the village — long since removed — sleeping in double bunks, and were transported out to farms in the area where work needed to be done.

Very little machinery was in use and tasks such as hoeing turnips, spreading muck and even horse ploughing all required intense physical effort.

“It was all done by hand and was very hard work for girls from the city, but I loved it,” said Zandra. She recalls that she spent about three and a half years in the Land Army, eventually leaving it following a disagreement with the Lazonby hostel warden about which girls should be taken to dances at the old Drill Hall, in Penrith — with Zandra holding that all should be treated equally, whereas the warden gave preference to the older girls.

One of the farms Zandra worked on was Basco Dyke, Ainstable, and it was there she met her future husband, Vincent Armstrong, originally from Gamblesby, who was also employed there. They were engaged within six weeks and married within a year, at St Michael’s Church, Manchester.

They made their first home in Lazonby and Zandra has remained there ever since — together with many members of her family — taking a very active role in village life.

Other attractions at the Wartime Weekend included many military vehicles, including a Bren gun carrier, a fully kitted out Austin K2 ambulance and an RAF staff car. Also popular was a WWII field kitchen from which food was served to visitors, and living history groups depicting life in a reconnaissance regiment and commando unit.

One of the organisers, Chris Hallam, said: “It was the best year since this started more than five years ago and plans are already being made for next year, with the date to be announced.”