Victory Harvest: Diary of a Canadian in the Women's Land Army, 1940-1944


227 pages
Contains Photos, Maps
ISBN 0-7735-1663-8
DDC 940.53'082'0941




Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


In April 1940, Marion Kelsey followed her soldier husband to England and
joined a civilian organization called the Women’s Land Army (“the
land girls”). For more than four years she kept a diary, which was
typed by a hospitalized veteran friend in 1946 and which survived until
it was rescued from oblivion in 1991.

The diary is a valuable historical document. On various farms in the
south of England, Kelsey milked cows, ploughed with a tractor, harvested
fruit, and hoed root crops. Apart from being physically unfit for the
long hours of back-breaking work, she was literally in the front line of
the war against Hitler. She witnessed the air war and survived bombs,
machine guns, rockets, and shelling. In the end, she suffered not from
the war but from two serious farm accidents.

On foot, by bicycle, and by bus, Kelsey got to know Sussex, Surrey, and
Kent like the back of her hand. She brought a Canadian sensibility to
the rural culture of southern England—moral purpose, a love of good
husbandry, and a determination to succeed in what she was pointedly told
was a man’s world. After D-Day in 1944, her husband, Charlie, was
badly wounded and left partially disabled. Kelsey lived with him until
his death in 1993. This diary is a tribute to two good Canadian lives.


Kelsey, Marion., “Victory Harvest: Diary of a Canadian in the Women's Land Army, 1940-1944,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,