Unsung Giltbrook hero of war receives medal at last -- on her 95th birthday

Joan Day is presented with her medal by Catherine Munro, MBE.
Joan Day is presented with her medal by Catherine Munro, MBE.

A Giltbrook woman who was one of the unsung heroes of the Second World War has finally received an accolade she has been craving for more than 70 years.

Among the presents Joan May was given to mark her 95th birthday on Sunday was the Defence Medal, a distinguished honour awarded to people for their non-operational service in the Armed Forces during the conflict.

Back in the 1940s, Joan had received her War Medal, which was issued to everyone who served full-time in the forces or the Merchant Navy.

However, she never got her hands on the Defence Medal.

It is understood the authorities misjudged how many women qualified for the medal and so not enough were made.

All that was put right, though, on Sunday, thanks to the efforts of the Eastwood and District branch of the Royal British Legion, of which Joan was a founder member in the 1960s.

Norman Hart, the branch’s community support officer and standard bearer, said: “The oversight was brought to my attention, and so I made some enquiries.

“I asked the Women’s Royal Army Corps Association to investigate Joan’s military service, and it was confirmed that she was entitled to the medal.”

At her birthday celebration at her home on Ludlam Avenue, Joan officially received the medal from Catherine Munro, WRACA East Midlands area chairman, and two of her colleagues.

Mr Hart, who was also there, along with other representatives of the Legion branch, said: “It was a very fitting occasion.

“I even baked Joan a birthday cake.”

Joan, who hails from the London area, was so keen to help the war effort that she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the Army, as a 17-year-old in 1942.

Initially, she served as a “spotter”, which entailed detecting the location and height of enemy aircraft in the skies.

She then trained to be a driver and finished the war at the wheels of military vehicles,before being demobbed in the summer of 1945 and returning to civilian life.

Joan moved to the Eastwood area many years ago and remains a stalwart member of the Legion branch.

She is housebound now and suffers from restricted hearing and poor eyesight.

However, she was delighted to finally receive the Defence Medal recognising her sterling contribution all those years ago.