My 85-year-old Mum has just received a medal. She was awarded it this week for her efforts serving in the Women's Land Army during the Second World War. It has been a long time coming - she left in 1947, but now the kind Ministry of Agriculture (as it was known then, aka defra nowadays) has seen fit, after much lobbying, to bestow these Land Army octogenarians and nonagenarians belatedly with medals for all their hard work. Hard work it was indeed. My mother tells many tales of her time billeted as a 19-year-old on farms in Hertfordshire. Her many jobs included bringing the cows in and milking them, liming the cowshed walls, from which her hands became so raw they bled, sowing potatoes, digging them up again at harvest time, pulling cabbages and cauliflowers, stripping the land of trees and shrubs to make room for even more produce. It was back-breaking work - quite literally. She now has a severely curved spine (scoliosis) to show for it and is so riddled with arthritis, she is in constant pain. So she already has something from her Land Army Days to remind her of what she had to go through to keep the nation fed in wartime.
She had good times too. Not least, she met my dear Dad, a young refugee from Nazi Germany, whose only crime was to have had a Jewish grandmother - not far back enough in his family tree to assimilate him into the Aryan race. He and his family just managed to escape to Britain in 1939 just before the war broke out. Because of his origins, he was first interned on the Isle of Man while his background was checked (to prove he was not a German spy) and then put on the land along with the Conscientious Objectors, to pull down trees and plough the land. He was pulling down a tree with a chain and tractor, when my mum quite literally tripped over the chain and fell into his path. The rest, as they say, is history. Their love for one another remained strong until the day he died 7 years ago.
Now she has a medal too. So wear it with pride, Mum. You worked so hard to protect this country during the war and keep it fed. Your disabilities now are just as deserving of that medal as if you had been wounded on the front. I suspect the medal will mean a whole lot more to you, than defra will ever know. Better late than never.