Joan 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. After the school received a direct hit from a high-explosive bomb on the 1st of November 1940, twelve firefighters were trapped under the debris. 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.
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. The conditions firefighters lived in were thrown into even sharper relief when Joan and her colleagues lost their lives while bravely protecting London from fire. 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.
Photo credits: Fire Brigade Union