Mary Daubney was only 11 years old in 1941 when her parents and brother were killed in a Nazi bombing campaign on her hometown.
The aggressive attacks, called the “Hull Blitz,” left 95 per cent of the homes in the British port town of Hull damaged and many children orphaned, including Mary and her older sister, Sheila, who spent the next four years living in an orphanage.
At 14, Mary lied about her age to join the Women's Land Army with Sheila. The civilian organization put women in farming jobs to replace the men at war. With a desperate shortage of workers and the agriculture industry in peril, many underage workers were able to slip through the cracks and dodge the minimum age requirement of 18 years.
Mary has fond memories of her time as a land girl. She was stationed on a small farm outside of Hull, where she worked the land, cared for livestock and harvested potatoes. The work was hard, but she was happy to be working with friends and contributing to her country.
These memories come flooding back when Mary, now 86, puts on the traditional Land Army uniform—khaki pants and a green pullover—to portray her younger self in a photo shoot for a fundraising calendar to benefit Covenant Health’s Youville Home.
“We were on the field working. We never had time for makeup,” jokes Mary, while a makeup artist powders her face.
Meanwhile, Mary’s son, Michael, is showing his mom’s photo shoot “props” to Youville Home staff.
“The girls who worked in the Land Army were never recognized by the British government for doing their bit, so many years later the government decided to recognize them by awarding them a special pin and certificate signed by the British prime minister,” says Michael with pride.
In front of the camera, Mary proudly holds up her certificate and laughs as flashbulbs go off.
The calendar is an opportunity for residents to relive important moments from their past, explains Monica McFadden, Youville Home’s Volunteer Co-ordinator.
“The residents are excited to help us raise funds and it’s fun for them. They get to dress up, relive memories and create conversation about the things they once did,” says Monica.
The 2017 calendar, with the theme “Our Residents, Their Pasts,” features 17 residents dressed in their former professional attire.
“It was interesting for me and it was really special for Mom,” says Michael. “She has had an incredible life. She’s at life’s end now and she deserves a little extra attention and to be made to feel special.”
“When they asked me to be in the calendar, it was a good day,” says Mary. “And today, today was very good, too.”
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