Hundreds gathered to pay respect to Canada’s war dead at the Kew Gardens cenotaph on Nov. 11, a Remembrance Day that marked the 100th anniversary of the First World War.
Among the veterans was Bernadette Baran, nee Ledgard, who laid a wreath on behalf of the Women’s Land Army. At 16, Baran lied about her age to join the Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps. She got in, and served four and a half years in east England, farming, clearing trees and tending to sheep and other livestock at a time in the Second World War when Britain’s supplies were under threat.
“We fed the people because the U-boats were going round,” said Baran.
She would later marry a Polish air force pilot, Tadeusz Baran, who fought in the Battle of Britain. When they decided to start new lives abroad, the two chose Canada over Australia on a coin toss. Almost 75 years later, Baran still laughs at how after all her wartime shepherding, she wound up with a last name that means ‘lamb’ in Polish.
Speaking after the ceremony with the son of another woman who served in the Women’s Land Army, Baran showed her medal of honour – one awarded to her and former ‘Land Girls’ in 2008.
Baran said it was a long time coming.
“We used to go the War Office all the time and say, ‘All that muck and no medals?’”