Honoured at last for land army war work

PUBLISHED: 16:56 10 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:28 10 June 2010

SUNDAY, AUGUST 10: A BRIXINGTON foot soldier in Second World War's forgotten army has finally received Government recognition for her efforts - after a lifetime of waiting. Margaret Dowell, of Norwich Close, is now in her eighties; but between 1942 - aged just 18 - and 1945

A BRIXINGTON foot soldier in Second World War's forgotten army has finally received Government recognition for her efforts - after a lifetime of waiting.Margaret Dowell, of Norwich Close, is now in her eighties; but between 1942 - aged just 18 - and 1945 she was an integral member of the Women's Land Army and single-handedly looked after livestock at Pinn Farm near Otterton.Amidst a backdrop of rationing, German wolf-packs sinking vital food convoys crossing the Atlantic, the work that people like Margaret did prevented the country from starvation - and without them the final military victory against the axis powers would have been impossible. And finally after 63 years of waiting she has received recognition, in the form of a golden badge - similar to the one she wore while working the fields - and a certificate signed, by hand, by the Prime Minster Gordon Brown."I was where I was the most useful," said an overly modest Mrs Dowell, who has lived in Brixington for 23 years. "I'd never known anything else "My father was an Otterton farmer; I'm a farmer's daughter and that's what I know, what I was good at."There was no point going into the WAAf or the Wrens. My experience was in farming. "It was second nature to me. I looked after 24 cows, pigs and other livestock and I enjoyed the work because I knew it was so vital. The country had to be self sufficient."She was charged with single-handedly looking after all the livestock - and she recalls some of the girls from the cities had to practice their milking skills on a fake rubber udder at Dartington Hall."In the winter it was very dark and we had to work with paraffin lamps. We had two weekends off a year to go home and had two half-days off a week. "I was used to the work. We often started at 5.45 in the morning and finished at 10 or 11 at night, six days a week. "I never heard anybody complain and we were just pleased to do our bit, but I think some of the other girls from the cities found it difficult."Many of the girls from London went to the Women's Timber Corp and they have also been recognised. The certificate reads:"The Government wishes to express to you its profound gratitude for your unsparing efforts as a loyal and devoted member of the Women's Land Army at a time when our country depended upon you for its survival."While working at the farm, Margaret met farmer James Dowell and they got married and worked on an Otterton farm for a further 47 years before moving to Brixington.She added: "I'm very proud to be recognised after all this time - it's been a long time coming."Last Friday I found a package on the mat and I guessed what it was. How they came to forget us I really don't know but we were the forgotten army.

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