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Charles hails Land Girls memorial

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the "truly remarkable" work of the Women's Land Army (WLA) as he unveiled the UK's first dedicated memorial.

Charles met surviving "Land Girls" on the Fochabers estate in Moray as a ceremony was held commemorating their contribution to the war effort.

The women helped to feed the nation by working on the country's farms during the Second World War.

The creation of the memorial was steered by former National Farmers Union Scotland president Jim McLaren, whose mother Katherine was a Land Girl.

He recognised there was no permanent tribute to the WLA in the UK, though one is now also being planned for the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Charles, who is known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland, said at the unveiling: "It gives me enormous pride to be able to join you on this exposed hilltop to pay a small tribute of my own to all the remarkable Land Girls who did so much during the years when the country was under threat."

Their contribution was "truly remarkable", said Charles, who wore traditional Highland dress.

"There are still several hundred Land Girls left, the only problem is that it's taken nearly 70 years or something in order to ensure there was a memorial," he added.

The Prince said an "enormous debt of gratitude" was owed to Mr McLaren.

The memorial, which features smiling farm workers, was designed by artist Peter Naylor from Beverley, East Yorkshire.

Mr McLaren said the committee behind the three-year, 47,000 fundraising campaign was sent a miniature version of the work during the tender process.

He said: "We immediately fell in love with it.

"I've been brought up with the concept of what the Land Army is about and what they achieved at a time of uncertainty.

"No-one knew what the outcome would be.

"We had nobody left on the farms and government policy quite rightly demanded more food.

"So successful was the work of the WLA that it continued to 1950. It's high time it was remembered."

The WLA was established in 1917 by the UK Board of Agriculture, which drafted in 20,000 women to work on the land.

During the Second World War, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries took over its organisation.

At its peak there were more than 80,000 members, who were sent to farms where they were involved in everything from milking, lambing and shearing to planting, harvesting and operating machinery.

Mona McLeod, 89, went to work on a farm in Galloway after her father, a Leeds University professor, volunteered his daughter.

Mrs McLeod, who now lives in Edinburgh, said: "I'm delighted we've got a memorial, it was more than time.

"I think the youngest of us must be 85. So, we've just got there by the skin of our teeth."

Charles spent about 20 minutes chatting to the Land Girls and local people before unveiling a plaque in front of the memorial.

A Tornado from RAF Lossiemouth flew overhead.

Mr Naylor said: "Ultimately, I think all war memorials should create some emotional stir within the viewer. That mix of emotions can be complex.

"In this case, though, I want the Women's Land Army memorial to gladden the spirit, to lift the heart."

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