News from Marianne Vakalis, daughter of Ruth and Ted Johnson
I currently live in Colonia, NJ, in the United States with my husband Bob and my two children Claire and Sophie. I'm currently the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Berkeley College – New Jersey, a private college of higher education that primarily awards undergraduate degrees (Bachelors) in various different business disciplines, although we are expanding our mission to incorporate other degrees such as Criminal Justice and Health Services.
The New Land Army Badge
‘For a healthy, happy job, join the Women's Land Army’( 1940s slogan). The heroic achievements of British agriculture during the Second World War must not be forgotten. The objective of a plan drafted in 1936–37 was the production at home of as much of the food most needed in war time as possible of. Yet, during the war some 98,000 men had left the land to enrol into the Armed Forces. Somebody had to step into the breech and none were better organised than the Women's Land Army colloquially known as the ‘Land Girls’. Imagine my pleasure when over a welcome cup of tea, a dear, only too modest. Deddington friend chatted to me about her two years’ service in the WLA and showed me a letter of thanks signed by the Prime Minister, and her brand new shiny commemorative badge.
This is a long overdue official thank you for war work, to the surviving members of over 80,000 young women volunteer labourers on the land. My friend, together with another Land Girl, shared work on a big estate, tending a large market garden, looking after six Jersey cows, poultry and generally supporting two elderly estate workers, the only regular staff left who had not been called up. The girls were quartered above a stable/barn, did their own cooking on a single electric ring and even had water laid on into their quarter! (the men had to make do with an outside tap). Once a fortnight the girls took turns with weekend leave to visit their parents, but each felt duty bound to return on the earliest milk train on Monday morning to lighten again the on-duty girl's heavy burden. Luckily healthy food was always in good supply which eked out their 7s. 6d a week pay. My friend showed me her original WLA badge worn on her issue uniform of green jumper, beige shirt, tie, hard- wearing trousers, wellington boots and a warm coat. Sadly, I could not persuade her to dig out some old photos from the attic. She said: ‘I was only one of thousands doing my bit for my country. Yes it was hard work, but we learned a lot and also had some fun. We two Land Girls got on famously and are still in contact with each other to this day’. The WLA Badge has been specially designed by the Garter King of Arms and bears the Royal Crown. Both the original and the commemorative badges show a gold wheat sheaf on a white background surrounded by a circle of pine branches and pine cones to indicate the work of both the WLA and the Women's Timber Corps, known as Timber Jills. The WLA was disbanded in 1950.
Land Girls and Timber Jills. we salute you!
The Original Deddington Diaspora – or was it?
As far as we know, there is only one other Deddington in the world, in Tasmania, Australia, but efforts to find out how it got its name have so far failed. Were convicts deported there, taking our name with them? The name seems, however, to predate the earliest record of transportees arriving there. There are pages on our sister website, Deddington OnLine, on the other Deddington, and we exchange visitors from time to time. In 2006 Carol and Rodney Westmore visited here, Richard Broadbent called in on our contact, Terence Talbot, and this year the DN editor, Jill Cheeseman and her family visited our namesake on the other side of the world.
Derek Cheeseman is examining some of the bricks in CambellTown, Tasmania, commemorating some of the 68,000transportee convicts.