SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, is delighted to celebrate the 100th birthday of Margaret Joyce, who resides in Brighton. Margaret, who served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) during the Second World War and whose birthday was at the end of September, marked the occasion by attending the Brighton premiere of The Great Escaper, after being invited by SSAFA.
SSAFA became aware of Margaret when her husband, Harry Joyce, an Army Commando who had landed on Sword Beach during the D-Day landings, needed assistance. Following Harry’s death, his SSAFA caseworker, Graham Fowler, looked after Margaret when she was in need.
Maggie Davis, Margaret’s daughter, said:
“SSAFA has been brilliant helping my mum. She had a new boiler fitted and got a new window for her bathroom. She also received an annuity for a while which we used to pay for taxis to get her out and about.”
Regarding her service, Margaret says she thoroughly enjoyed her time in the ATS. She was called up in 1939 and completed three months training in Yorkshire. The day she collected her uniform she was given a set with enormous bloomers, as a joke, because she was such a tiny woman.
After she was demobbed, she met Harry at the cinema, and a long-lasting romance ensued.
“They were married in 1948, the day ‘My Love’ won the Derby.
Graham Fowler, the Joyces’ SSAFA caseworker said:
“They were an astonishingly brave couple. Margaret was a searchlight operator in the war in Dagenham, which was the Luftwaffe’s main target in London. They would first try to take out the searchlights with machine guns before bombing the factories; it was a really dangerous job.
“Harry was a very brave man too. When I applied for his service history they came back saying that his date of birth was wrong. ‘No,’ twinkled Harry, ‘I lied and said I was 18. I was only 17 really.’. Harry went on to join the Army Commandos, an elite unit reserved only for special operations. He survived the Dieppe raid, where thousands died, and took part in the Rhine Crossing.”
SSAFA was pleased to invite Margaret and her daughter to the premiere of The Great Escaper. Not only are there parallels to be drawn with the lives of the veterans on screen, but Margaret and Harry lived close by the care home that Bernard Jordan escaped from almost a decade ago.
Margaret thoroughly enjoyed the film, and her birthday celebrations.
“Brilliant, absolutely brilliant and very moving. Two great actors [Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson] portraying it. Bernie went to Sword Beach and that’s where my dad landed as well. I feel like when he was alive, we took the mickey out of him a bit with his war stories and I wish I never had.”
Mia Certo, SSAFA Case Study Manager said:
“It was a privilege to attend the Brighton premiere with Margaret and her family, knowing they had such a direct connection to the film’s story.
“SSAFA’s work to support veterans like Margaret and her husband is vital and a core part of our charity’s mission and values. Recording stories, both the heroic and the everyday, from members of the World War II generation is an urgent task as the number of people with living memory of the war grows ever smaller. Only by asking, listening, and sharing these stories can we ensure that they become a part of our cultural memory.”