JOAN Clifford remembers the day she left her London office job to work on an Oxfordshire farm during the Second World War — as it changed her life forever.

Today, more than six decades later, she joined 200 other members of the Women’s Land Army and Timber Corps at Dorchester Abbey, who were thanked for keeping Britain going while the men went off to fight.

Land Girl Mrs Clifford, who lives in Sutton Courtenay, near Abingdon, was called up in 1942 and immediately sent on a training course in Sparsholt to learn about life on the land. Before long she was posted to a farm near Banbury where she worked from dawn until dusk.

The 88-year-old said: “It was a big shock. I had to learn to drive and the brakes didn’t always work and I had to drive through Banbury market.

“It was really very hard and frightening at times, especially when the bull got out and the pigs escaped, but we had a lot of fun. I was out in the field hoeing one day and it rained so I borrowed the coat from a scarecrow in a nearby field. I put it back when it stopped.”

The great-grandmother said it was wonderful the Land Girls’ hard work had been recognised.

The congregation, led by the Rev Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester, applauded the women for their commitment to the war effort. Last year, they received badges of honour for their work.

Anne Kelaart, who farms near South Moreton, organised 30 Oxfordshire farmers to serve tea at the event as a thank-you to the Land Girls.

She said: “I haven’t found one Land Girl who didn’t say it was a remarkable experience.”

Margaret Griffin, of Islip, joined the Land Army in 1943, aged 17, and worked in the village.

The 83-year-old said: “We had to get up at five in the morning to get the cows in. I also did land work, ploughing and clearing ditches and I learned how to thatch.

“One day I went into the cow shed and the bull was loose and when the farmer came to tie him up, the bull chased him round the shed and we stood there laughing by the door.”

Oxfordshire’s Lord Lieutenant Tim Stevenson said: “It was the most special event I have been to since I took over this job.

“These are great people who feel under-acknowledged because they made a huge contribution during the war. They were very brave, spirited young girls and lots of them left homes in the city and were plonked down in farms often very far from their homes, and they had to get on with it.”

At its peak, up to 80,000 Land Girls worked on farms to feed the nation during the war, many wearing uniforms of green ties and jumpers and brown felt slouch hats.

The Womens’ Timber Corps, also known as the Lumber Jills, worked in the forests to provide timber for the war effort.