In search of a remarkable “Rose”

• Margaret Branch – pictured with Camila Ruegg
• Margaret Branch – pictured with Camila Ruegg

You never know what you are going to discover when you delve into the distant branches of your family tree…

But Londoner Ed Knox – a water company supervisor – was so fascinated by what he found, that he has set out on a fact-finding mission to write a book about his distant relative.

Born in 1912, Margaret Branch was a psychiatric social worker who trained under Karl Jung and lived in Hamilton Terrace, St John’s Wood, from 1955 till her death in 1997.

Ms Branch joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during the Second World war. She became part of the French Resistance but was captured by Nazis. She went on to work with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Adminis­tration after the war. Mr Knox went on to add

“Margaret was also a Swynnerton Rose, perhaps you could even call her the ‘Queen of the Roses’. I say this because I found out that after her secret war work Margaret was given the position of Assistant Labour Manager at ROF Swynnerton in September 1941, which she held until June 1943 when she returned to work as a journalist in London.

During her time at the factory I am led to believe she was in charge of the factory women’s welfare, perhaps first on hand to support the women who were injured or killed etc. She travelled by bus each day to the factory from Newcastle It was before her marriage, when she worked at Swynnerton her surname was Johnston – to her friends she was “Micky” Johnston – to colleagues Margaret.

Her digs at the time was one of the hostels, at Kingsland. Her boyfriend at the time she was at the factory said that: Micky is in Staffordshire – in a factory – not making things but in some mysterious way that I don’t understand, looking after the well-being of the workers. A Government job of ‘war work’ and very interesting she says.”

I think Margaret was at the factory at the time when the King and Queen paid a secret visit and when Eleanor Roosevelt and Gracie Fields came, perhaps she escorted them around? I am hoping there might just be a few Roses around who would by chance read the article and who remembered Micky/Margaret … I would love for them to get in touch so I can tell Margaret’s full story of her time at Swynnerton, who she knew, who she helped and in turn expand upon the story of the Roses and to help get their story out there. I have put a rough chapter on Swynnerton and its Roses together from existing sources but to get first hand contact from those who worked with her, those who remember her would be amazing. She is perhaps best known for setting up a charity for children with high learning potential – National Association for Gifted Children, now known as Potential Plus UK – to help families nurture their gifted children and support their emotional and mental needs.

Mr Knox continued:

“I would love to hear any memories people might be willing to share with me of Margaret – even if they didn’t like Margaret, she was a very straightforward ‘no BS’ sort of a woman and sometimes people found her too direct, I want to tell a balanced story so if someone has any memory – good, bad or indifferent I would love to hear from them. Denise Yates, the chief executive of Potential Plus UK, was particularly pleased when she heard about the plans for the book about Ms Branch, as the book may coincide with the organisation’s 50th anniversary next year. She said: “It is a really interes­ting project. I’m hoping he finishes it off and it is all done and dusted in time for our anniversary because we have thousands of members around the country and it would be nice to read about our founder.”

Mr Knox has asked anyone with information to contact him, confiden­tially if they choose. Email or call 01777 711579.