The women celebrating Christmas during their expedition “They are an inspiration to us all and are role models to young people across the country,” he said. “They truly demonstrate why the British Armed Forces are the best in the world, and show that with hard work, courage, and determination anything is possible.”Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who was an early supporter tweeted: “Congratulations Ice Maidens! You have achieved your dream and performed an incredible feat of endurance physically and mentally.”But the message the team may treasure the most came from the official Twitter account of The Archers. “Congratulations @exicemaiden for crossing Antarctica in a record-breaking 62 days,” it said. “A lot’s gone on in Ambridge while you’ve been away – happy catching up”. Musing on possible goings-on, she said: “Seeing as we will be skiing, perhaps it can snow lots in Ambridge and they all have to get around on skis?” For many, all they need to endure to be rewarded with an omnibus of The Archers is a week’s work. But for a team of female British soldiers, the promise of catching up on the going-ons in Ambridge was the light at the end of a merciless, soul-sapping slog to become the first all-female group to cross Antarctica unsupported.After 62 days on the ice, and crossing more than 1,000 miles, the Army’s Ice Maiden Expedition crossed the finish line at the Hercules Inlet just before 10am on Saturday.Among the six-woman team were Major Nicola Wetherill, Major Natalie Taylor and Captain Zanna Baker – all devoted observers of Borsetshire life, despite (or perhaps because of) its distinct lack of snow-blasted glaciers and Gentoo penguins.Before the expedition, Major Wetherill told the BBC that she and Major Taylor whiled away the hours on training walks by discussing how plots on the gentle Radio 4 drama might turn out, and said they planned to make up for missing the show while in Antarctica by imagining their own storylines.“Natalie and I talked about coming up with “alternative Antarctica-Archers plots” and seeing how different they were when we got back,” she said. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, congratulated the “heroic” and “trailblazing” team, which raised more than £1,500 for Breast Cancer Care and the Army Cadet Forces Association. Captain Baker, of the Royal Artillery, spoke of trying to convert the other Ice Maidens, reservist Major Sandy Hennis of the Royal Signals, Lieutenant Jenni Stephenson of the Royal Artillery and Honourable Artillery Company reservist Lance Sergeant Sophie Montagne.“The other members of the team, who did not previously listen to The Archers, are slowly having to give in, otherwise they miss out on large chunks of our conversations!” she said.The Maidens, led by Major Wetherill – whose family celebrated Christmas in October – and Major Taylor – both of the Royal Army Medical Corps – travelled up to 27 miles a day, navigating crevasse fields while pulling sledges weighing up to 176 lb and battling temperatures as low as -40F. Speaking after crossing the line, Major Wetherill said: “I’m just so incredibly proud of the team. I can’t believe how far we’ve come.“This journey has had good times, bad times and great times for all concerned, and each of them, I know, has made us better people.