CROWDS turned out in their thousands to welcome a Royal visitor to Oxford as the First World War neared its end.

Princess Mary, the 20-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, came to the city on April 24, 1918 to honour women working on the land and to encourage more to join them.

Many women had volunteered for the Women’s Land Army, working on farms in place of men fighting the Germans, but 30,000 more recruits were needed.

Before the Princess arrived, a rally had been held in St Giles where speakers urged women to help out on the farms.

Standing on a haywagon, they told the huge crowd of the “terrible crisis facing the country”.

Food was needed to feed the men “fighting across the waters” as well as families at home, but was in short supply. Farmers were short of labour and needed women “from all classes” to harvest crops.

A large marquee was erected in St Giles for women to sign up.

After the speeches, a colourful parade was held through the city to encourage more to step forward.

The Oxford Illustrated Journal newspaper reported: “Groups in the procession included milkers carrying pails and stools, wagoners and carters, field workers with farm implements, foresters, stockminders carrying ducks and rabbits and leading goats, a sheep, a dog and oxen wearing garlands.

“The colours of the Land Army (green and red) were used as decorations and one or two wagons were gay with wild flowers.”

The procession ended in Broad Street, where the land workers were inspected by Mr R F Prothero MP, President of the Board of Agriculture.

Many then filtered into Trinity College gardens, where 2,000 of them were to receive badges, certificates and stripes from the Princess.

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry band entertained while they waited for the Royal visitor.

The Princess arrived just before 3pm, having travelled by train to Oxford, then in Lady Morrell’s carriage to Trinity, receiving, according to the newspaper, “a cordial reception from the crowds which lined the streets”.

She was met at the Trinity gate by the Vice-Chancellor and other VIPs, with a guard of honour formed by members of cadet battalions training in Oxford.

The route to the college quad was lined by Girl Guides and land workers. The Princess told the county Guide commissioner, Mrs Miller: “Will you please tell the Guides how particularly smart I thought they were?”

After the presentations, which took more than an hour, the Princess was handed a bouquet of orchids by Favell Hall, daughter of Colonel Hall, of Great Rollright.

Leaving the college after tea, she asked her carriage driver to make a detour to St Giles “to find out how recruitment was going”.

She was then driven to the railway station to catch her train to Windsor and prepare for her 21st birthday celebrations next day.

  • My thanks to Memory Lane reader David Brown, of Jordan Hill, Oxford, who has supplied three of the pictures for this feature