Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Betty Jean Hall - Women's Land Army
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Betty Jean Hall
Betty Jean Settle



Betty Jean Hall née Settle

28 July 2005

Jean was born in 1918 at Lonsdale Road, Bolton. Her father was a draughtsman, but after serving in the First World War he worked as a salesman for a brewery sundries firm. Her mother was a milliner. Jean went to Folds Road Central School and worked at Richard Moyle's Department Store on the corner of Bradshawgate and Great Moor Street.

In 1942 Jean joined the Women's Land Army and was based at RAF Corsham where she worked on the land in the grounds growing vegetables and fruit for the station. She also worked at Shepperton in the Thames Valley, and later on a farm belonging to Eli Morris in Westhoughton. One of her brothers, Frederick Gordon Settle, was in the RAF and was killed in 1940 and another brother served in the Merchant Navy on the Atlantic and Russian convoys but died at the end of the War. Jean enjoyed her time in the Land Army, despite the often backbreaking work. She learned a great deal from the experience and it instilled in her a love of the countryside.

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On the land in Wiltshire... mp3 sound clip - 363k On the land in Wiltshire... mp3 sound clip - 363k

Back to earth in Westhoughton... mp3 sound clip - 351kBack to earth in Westhoughton... mp3 sound clip - 351k

On the land in Wiltshire...

We worked very hard. I think the winters were the hardest time, when you were working in the dark, picking frozen Brussels sprouts, listening to the owls hooting. And we used to feel rather envious when the WAAFS used to march by. They were going on duty, to one of these rooms, you've probably seen them on the films where they plotted the movements of enemy aircraft on a big map - so they were doing that below ground. And they would march past in a company or whatever it was, all very smart, beautifully made-up and there used to be perfume drifting on the air behind them, because you could get make-up and perfume in the NAAFI. So that was one advantage for us, that we could buy things in the NAAFI, where they sold cigarettes, chocolate, make-up, things like that. And one of the things that amused us was, we wore dungarees, couple of jumpers, our hair tied up in a turban, looking very scruffy, working very hard, and... At night we would go our, perhaps to some local dance, and we had to go through the guard room, where you had to sign in and out, and they couldn't believe the transformation, because we'd all glamorised ourselves.

Back to earth in Westhoughton...

I asked for a transfer nearer home. This time I went to Westhoughton, and I can remember the horror of going from all the beauties of Wiltshire and Thames Valley to Westhoughton on a winter's day... To this little farm at the bottom of a slag heap. And there was a little farmer called Eli, Eli Morris, and he employed a Land Girl who had a grumbling appendix, I think it was called, and I think in those days, the bed situation in the hospitals was just as bad as it is now, and she was still waiting for a bed after I'd been there six months. But we used to go out on the milk float, from this farm, delivering milk, the old-fashioned float drawn by a horse, and in those days nearly every house was empty because everybody were on War work. The children were in Wartime nurseries, nobody locked their door of course, you'd go to the first house, open the door, take your can of milk and your measuring, find a jug and measure the milk into the jug and come out again, and then go in the next one. And it's unbelievable now isn't it, that you could do that? So I found that quite hard, particularly as I had to go on the train every morning, I had to get up very early, about five o'clock, to get the train to start work early.