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The Local Women's Land Army
In our search for Margaret, the Land Girl in the Preston family photos, we contacted various people who we thought might have remembered her. We discovered that Joyce, the wife of our friend and retired local farmer David, had been both a land girl and a friend of Margaret and had visited her at her first home in Sarsden. Sadly, Joyce had died before we met David who couldn't recall Margaret's surname or whether his wife kept in touch with her. David too has since died and is much missed. He became a good friend to our cause and was a fund of memories of the war years, having lived and worked in the locality all his life. This included the war years because of his reserved occupation. He also went to school with Jeanne's two sons. We are indebted to him.
We also had the benefit of land girl Kath's memories of her time at Sarsden Lodge Farm with Mr Bosely and the Italian prisoners of war who also worked there. Unfortunately, she too had no memories of Margaret. Neither did the evacuees and local children of the period we contacted, although they helped with other information. We're grateful to all these people but are still no closer to finding Margaret. The closest we came was Gwen, who was Margaret's first landlady in Sarsden. It was lovely to meet her and hear her memories of the war years. For a while, she too worked for the same employer as Frank Preston, Jeanne's husband. But the gift of an inscribed copy of the 'Pilgrim's Progress', given to Gwen by Margaret, was lent to someone in the family and seems to have disappeared. Gwen thought Margaret's surname was Hudson or some similar sounding name, but we failed to find a Margaret Hudson in the Oxfordshire WLA record cards at Kew. Recently, we came across a reference to the existence of WLA service records at 'Records Review' at Alnwick but this seems to be a DEFRA office and they know nothing about it. It was at Alnwick that the original WLA service records were held until they were lost in a flood there. So this source seems a dubious one and the reference out of date, unless any records survived and are still held at Alnwick. A microfiche of 'mis-sorts', among the WLA card index fiches at the National Archives in Kew, has been also been checked but without any positive result.
In the hope that Margaret had stayed on after the war, we looked at the electoral rolls for the area in 1945 and subsequent years. Despite the war ending in 1945, the food situation in the UK was still serious and rationing continued for some years afterwards. Accordingly, the Women's Land Army also continued right up to 1950, but our hope that Margaret might have worked on in the area seems unfounded. If she did, we didn't find her under the surname of Hudson.
As well as land girls billeted locally, close to their workplace, there were other land girls who were daily ferried to different farms in the area from the Land Army hostels where they lived. The local organiser we contacted arrived after the war and wasn't able to help us. Who the wartime WLA organiser was, we haven't discovered. We learned there were two WLA hostels in the area, one at Over Norton Road, Chipping Norton called 'The Chestnuts', and the other at 'The Grange' in Kingham. At the Chipping Norton hostel, we came across a land girl called Margaret Tiffany but have no idea if this was 'our' Margaret.
If you, or someone you know, were ever at these or other local WLA hostels, or worked on the land in the Sarsden area during the war, we'd love to hear from you. Once more, you can contact us here: