Latest Ryman news

The life of a Land Army girl

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on April 24, 2023

Being brought up on a farm, it was a natural step for Dorothy Landon to put her hand up for the Land Army to do her bit for the war effort.
She was born on 1st September 1923 in Hunterville, the third of four children, and did her primary schooling at Bulls Primary School.
Going to secondary school was not straightforward however, and the family was planning a move north to Auckland so Dorothy, known as Dot, busied herself on the family farm instead.
At 16, she moved to Auckland, initially staying with her grandmother in Ponsonby and joining her older sister at work in a shoe factory in the CBD.
By then, both her father and her older brother had joined the war effort and when Dot read in the paper about the need for Land Army volunteers she decided to sign up.
“It just appealed to me, to do something to help,” she says. “My dad was away at the war and my brother.
“I was glad to be contributing. It felt good that you could do something.”
IMG_6633 (1) (Large)

Dot's Land Army efforts even put her on the pages of the Weekly News in 1942, including the front page!

IMG_6632 (1) (Large)Dot was sent to a farm at Springdale, just outside Matamata where she lived with the family she was working for and later moved to one at Mangatāwhiri.
Contrary to popular representations, the life of a Land Army girl was not necessarily a group of girls having a great time together working on the land.
Most of the time the girls were just there on their own to help the farm owners and the work was pretty physical too.
“There was all different kinds of farm work, milking cows, collecting firewood, driving a horse and cart or wagon, anything that a man did.
“I had always been with horses but I don’t think I’d ever driven a wagon until then.
“And the milking, in those days it went from vats into these cans, which you then had to roll from the ground up a plank in order to put them on the back of a truck.
“I can remember using a horse drawn plough too.
“I don’t think that was very easy. People didn’t have tractors the way they do now.”
With the milking, the herd was usually around 60 cows and while there were machines to do the actual milking, there were no machines to lift the heavy cans.
Dot even featured on the front page of the Auckland Weekly News on 16 September 1942 wearing gumboots and leading a horse.
That was before she was issued an official uniform, she says, and even then there weren’t many opportunities to wear it as overalls were more suitable for labouring on the farm.
“There was a parade in Auckland up Queen Street at the end of the war, and the girls came from everywhere.”
IMG_6634 (1) (Large)

Recognition for her contribution finally came in the 2000s, thanks to then Prime Minister John Key.

For Dot and her family, the war effort was all about doing their bit. Even her mother made uniforms for the military service.
There was much relief in the family when her father and brother returned home safe and sound.
“My dad was invalided home because he was a very bad asthma sufferer and my brother came back too, so we were probably lucky that things went pretty good after the war for us.”
Dot says the practical skills she learned on the farm were a big help when her dad was allocated some land in Puni after the war. They also came in handy after marrying her husband Colin, a cabinetmaker and builder, when the couple took over his parents’ farm.
Both her and Colin played bowls to national level in their later years and Dot is still patron of the Patumahoe Bowling Club.
She went on to raise three sons and is now a proud grandmother-of-eight, great grandmother-of-twelve and great great grandmother-of-two!
Her Land Army days were formally recognised when John Key was Prime Minister and she was presented with a special certificate which she displays proudly on her wall at Possum Bourne today.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

You may also like:

Wedding dresses old and new on show for village Valentine’s celebration

Love is well and truly in the air at Possum Bourne Retirement Village this week.

Stunning new portrait of Possum Bourne revealed

Peggy Bourne was the first to see a stunning new painting of her late husband at a poignant unveiling held today at the ...

Residents in awe of Debra’s Yuri bear story

Residents at two Auckland villages were thrilled to hear the latest instalment of Project Yuri Bear directly from the so...