VAC Godstone Green
Volunteer Agricultural Camp
Maximum number in camp about 60
Top row: Else Kruck, D, Marie Owen, NZ, Polly Perkinson, NZ,
The Camp Bunny, and two students.
Lunchbreak on a farm in Coulsdon.
The camp was situated at the end of the Green, in
Ivy Mill Lane, Godstone Green.
Helping with the harvest were visitors from
Australia, France, New Zealand and the UK.
The Godstone Camp
According to Mr McNair, the Warden in charge of the camp in 1951, these camps were started during the war, and there were about 30 camps all over England. Farm labourers were in short supply, during and after the war, and patriotic members of the public were encouraged to spend a week or two of their holidays in the camps to help with the harvest. After the war the situation changed and the camps were mainly used by visitors from Australia, France, and New Zealand. Helping with the harvest but also using the camps as bases for sightseeing.
The VAC-Camp Godstone Green consisted of six huts/barracks, painted
green, and about twenty army tents. Two huts for accommodation, one
as a washing-place, one kitchen and eating place, and two for the camp
staff and office. At peak harvest times there were about 60 people living
in the camp. It was not intended for stays longer than one to three
weeks. The buildings used as living quarters had two large rooms, eight
beds in one room, and six in the other. All with minimum equipment,
camp beds with rough blankets, basic wardrobes and bare white walls
- just one step up from a refugee camp. In the dining hall were rough,
wooden tables, a piano, table tennis game and a radio, constantly blaring
at maximum volume. The walls were decorated with posters,
The charges for food and lodgings payable to the camp were 35s per week. This charge was reduced to 20s in late autumn, after Oct 1st. The harvest helpers were paid directly by the farmers, the rate of pay during the summer was 1s/6d per hour. Later on the minimum pay was increased to 1s/9d, but for picking potatoes it was 2s, and often 2s/6d. Better still on a good field with piecework. For the first 7 weeks - to 20th Oct - I worked on farms named Committeeland in Sanderstead and Old Coulsdon, where two girls from the Women's Land Army were in charge of the work.
Our daily routine started with a wake up call at 6.30 - 7.00 am, and breakfast was served between 7.15 - 7.45 am. We made our own sandwiches to take along for our lunch (beetroot, lettuce, fish paste or spam were the usual fillings). The lorries departed at 7.45 am and delivered the workers to the different farms to start work at 8.00 am. Some volunteers went by bus or walked to nearby farms.
We worked from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm, we had a short break during the morning at about 10 am, then an hour for lunch, and another short break at 3 pm. The lorries returned at 5 pm to take us back to the camp for dinner at 6 pm. There was something called supper at 9 pm, then lights out at 11 pm.
At the weekends we enjoyed visits to the cinema in Caterham (cheapest seat was 1 shilling). The highlight of our outings was the trip to London, to visit the 1951 Festival of Britain.
Photographs from other
Message from Rita Edgecock (née Fordham), January 2004.
I'm so thrilled to have found some of the old camp mates of the 1950's. I started on them in 1949, aged 15. I worked in the kitchen with the Yorkshire brothers from Doncaster on the Godstone camp for a while, but the call of the fields was too strong. I visited different camps all over the country in the summers and in the winter I worked in London as a Nanny.
I loved travelling and had 5 years of this lifestyle before settling down. Here are some pictures of the Agricultural Camps that we visited between 1947 and 1950. I believe one is taken at Godstone. The groups of volunteers are a mixture of many nationalities. I'm not on the photographs but my two sisters are. My sister has collected photographs from the camps and my husband Jack has copied the pictures and they're now on file in the computer.
Anyhow I hope someone may recognize somebody.