Stella Hapgood and the Women’s Land Army in WW2

Its ANZAC day today so a post related a recent photo I found at my parents house of Stella Hapgood seems appropriate.

During World War 2, many men from across Australia enlisted and were overseas. This left all the farms and rural industries short of their usual source of farm labour – and so in 1942 the Australian Women’s Land Army was formed. The idea was to have women from across Australia enlist, and then move across the country to support farms and agricultural harvests. A series of posters and recruiting ads like the ones below [1] encouraged over 3000 women volunteered [2]. No prior farm experience was required, and it was a positive way for women to contribute to the war effort.

One recruit was my great Aunt Stella Hapgood b1911. She grew up in Kin Kin, and would have been experienced at milking dairy cows and general farm work. She joined the Women’s Land Army in 1943, but had already done similar work for the CWA in 1941 with her younger sister Olga. Olga recalls:

As the war continued and the young men left for the battle lines the girls and women were taking their place in industry and farm work The Land Army consisted of these young girls trying as much as possible to take the place of men. At this time I decided to try my luck at working away from home so traveled to Maryborough where I found a job over the Christmas holidays working at “Quent House” a boarding house at Scarness at Pialba. I liked the work which consisted of housework, keeping the rooms clean and in order and of course waiting on the tables. The boarders consisted of young people out for a really good time so meal times could be very lively. From there I worked in a café and then in a laundry which was really hard and hot work as at that time we used only the flat “Pots Iron” heated on hot stoves. We ironed for the Army, so ironing uniforms day after day became very monotonous.

I was very relieved when Stella wrote asking me would I like to go with her to Glen Aplin to pick grapes. The Country Womens Association had asked for volunteers to work on the land, so we were not recruited by the land Army, but felt we were helping with the war effort. So I returned home to prepare for this adventure, and I think it was after Christmas 1941 that we left home – the first time we had really had been away from home to go to an unknown place. We were given the name of the people we had to work for, and they were to meet the train at the other end. Train travel was a night mare as the trains were full of soldiers- at night time they sprawled on the floor or in the luggage racks, sleeping while civilian passengers struggled to find a seat while trying to avoid stepping on bodies. We stayed in Brisbane at a friends place overnight and it was with some trepidation that we caught the train next morning.

We traveled that day stopping for refreshments at the station at Toowoomba. In those days there were refreshment rooms at certain stations where one could get a cup of tea and scones etc. which was very welcome as the trains were very slow and one felt one was dying of starvation on a long journey. The sun was setting as we approached Stanthorpe and I will never forget the surprise at seeing the apple trees not as I had imagined them as huge trees but very very small trees covered in red apples that really looked to me to be growing so close to the bare stems. I found out that the trees were always closely pruned for a more prolific crop. It was about dark when we arrived at Glen Alpin station and were relieved to find our employer waiting for us- a tall very thin man who made us feel at home….

There were grape vines as far as the eye could see and we were astounded at the size of the bunches which had to be snipped into small sections for packing. We picked there throughout the season enjoying every minute of it and returned home just before Easter. I think our wages were 30 shillings per week. …

Having had a taste of the big world outside I decided to return to Maryborough again. Stella also procured a job on the counter at a bake house but as the war progressed she decided to join the Army.

– Olga Hapgood Memoirs [5].

Stella’s attestation form dated Aug 1943 says she enlisted as a Private in Maryborough Qld where she was living and working as a waitress at the time [3]. The full record doesn’t clearly identify where she was sent, but my father told me she was sent to Atherton area in North Queensland. My Aunt R says that Stella often visited them in Malanda & she was really the only Hapgood aunt they knew well. When she came, she often sewed , and my Aunt R learnt to sew by watching Stella. The photo below is of Amy Patricia (Pat) Hapgood (nee Waddell) and Jeff Hapgood with their 3 eldest daughters R, M & J all dressed in Mickey mouse fabric dresses which were sewn by Stella.

Pat and Jeff Hapgood with their 3 eldest daughters R M & J, in Mickey Mouse dresses made by Jeff’s sister Stella Hapgood whilst she was in Atherton area with the Womens Land Army. About 1944

The State Library of Queensland has photos of the Qld Land Army base in Atherton although no photos of Stella so far have popped up! Later pages of the official paperwork says she became a qualified “Graded Gp II seamstress” in 1944, although the rest of the entries are all acronyms that I cant yet decipher. It says she was deployed in “Queensland” which is not particularly helpful in narrowing things down!

Stella Hapgood’s attestation form at enlistment 1943. From National Archives Australia [3]

The enlistment documents do include 2 great profile photos of Stella – looking at the camera and side on.

Stella Hapgood’s enlistment photo from National Archives 1943 [3]

The informal photo of Stella below fell out of a book at my parents place – it shows Stella in her Women’s Land Army uniform. She has a jacket and skirt, shirt and tie, sensible leather shoes and belt and holding a felt hat. Her hair and uniform in this photos match her official enlistment photo, and so I assume they were taken on the same day in Aug 1943 when Stella was 32 years old. I think she looks quite glamourous in this photo, although my Aunt R says that Stella used to say, ‘the Lord said unto Moses, the Hapgood’s will have long noses’. I have never looked at a Hapgood photo and noticed the nose before but we all have our internal critics, regardless of the era!

Stella Hapgood posing in her new Women’s Land Army uniform – presumed to be taken in 1943 at Maryborough. Family collection

There is a lovely photo of Stella in about 1950s or 1960s working in a chemist or pharmacy. I remember visiting her in the 1980s with my family, at her house in Caloundra which was next door to her sister Iris, brother in law Ted Bentley and her niece Audrey.

Stella Hapgood, working in a chemist shop (pharmacy). Date estimated 1950s or 1960s. Family collection.

Stella lived in Caloundra until she passed away in 1992, aged 80, and was buried in the Caloundra Cemetery.


[1] Womens Land Army Posters, Australian War Museum,

[2] “They fed Australia when the men went to fight, but it took 40 years for the Land Girls to be allowed to march on Anzac Day”, Courtney Wilson, Posted Mon 25 Apr 2022, ABC Australia,

[3] HAPGOOD STELLA ANNIE : Service Number – QFX53978  National Archives Australia ttps://

[4] The Australian Women’s Land Army Records 1942-1975 By JOL Admin | April 28, 2011

[5] [4] Hapgood Olga Memoirs, unpublished. See also Some sentences were removed from the quoted section that were not relevant to this particular blog topic eg names and descriptions of the employer at Glen Aplin.


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