Joan Ridd lost her life in the line of duty alongside her colleagues Arthur Wenborne, Ernest Hyde, Walter Hart and Francis Wingfield after a bomb hit their sub-station on the 1st of November 1940. Her Red Plaque was presented on the 1st of September 2019.
Twenty-year-old Joan and her fellow firefighters had been using Ricardo Street School in Poplar, East London, as a fire sub-station during the Second World War. The school received a direct hit from a high-explosive bomb on the 1st of November 1940. The main impact of the bomb was concentrated on the part of the school in use as a watch room where Joan was on duty that night. When the building collapsed Joan was buried under the rubble along with one other firewoman and ten firemen. Trapped and injured under the debris Joan died as a result of her injuries. Including Joan, five died as a result of their injuries.
The unsung heroes who died at Ricardo Street School were part of World War Two’s Auxiliary Fire Service – a nationwide brigade made up of tens of thousands of civilian volunteers. Joan is notable as one of the women firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty in World War Two, when thousands of women stepped into what we believe to have previously been an exclusively male role. Joan’s sacrifice is emblematic of the bravery of many women who stood beside their male colleagues in some of the most dangerous roles during air raids.
Joan was the daughter of Walter Harold and Lily Maud Ridd, her father was a Trunk Maker and had served in the Royal Fusiliers in the First World War. When the Second World War broke out she decided to join the Auxiliary Fire Service. After enrolling and completing the required training, Joan was attached to the Brunswick Road Fire Station and was sent to Ricardo Street School, also a sub fire station under Brunswick Road. In London’s sub-stations, men and women worked in cramped and rat-infested sub-stations described as ‘deplorable’, lacking adequate facilities for cooking and sleeping. Today, their Red Plaque can be found at Lansbury Lawrence Primary School, which was built on the former site of the bomb-struck Ricardo Street School.
Today, Joan is fondly remembered by her family, former colleagues, and brothers and sisters in the FBU.
Below are memories added by those who knew Joan Ridd or had a story that they wish to share with you. If you have a tribute for Joan Ridd that you wish to add, please include your memory below.
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Photo credits: Fire Brigade Union