By March 1940, agriculture in England and Wales had lost over thirty thousand men to the British Army. Another 15,000 had left the land to join other occupations. The main reason for this was the low wages paid to agricultural labourers. In the summer of 1940 Ernest Bevin, the minister of labour, under pressure from the National Union of Agricultural Workers, forced the Agricultural Wages Board to institute a minimum wage of 48s. This was increased to 60s. in November 1941 and 65s. In June 1943.
During the First World War the government established the Women's Land Army. The severe shortage of labour persuaded the government to reform the organization and by 1944 there were 80,000 women volunteers working on the land. The majority already lived in the countryside but around a third came from Britain's industrial cities.
Women in the Land Army wore green jerseys, brown breeches and brown felt slouch hats. They did a variety of jobs and a quarter were involved in milking and general farmwork. Others cut down trees, worked in sawmills and over a thousand women were employed as rat-catchers.