Wreath laid for war 'hero' who has passed away at 99 years old

Joy Caldwell, aged 99

Joy Caldwell, aged 99 - Credit: Tom Barnes

A wreath has been laid to honour a World War Two "hero" from Hornchurch who passed away just months before her 100th birthday.

Joy Caldwell was last week (March 2) celebrated at Sanders Draper School in recognition of what would have been her 100th birthday. 

To commemorate the occasion, her niece, Sally Russell, from Upminster, attended the laying of a wreath at RAF Hornchurch alongside two pupils from the school and members of the RAF Hornchurch heritage centre.

Born in Upminster and raised in Hornchurch, Joy was 17 when the war broke out. 

After her training, she was posted at Hornchurch with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Joy was known for her bravery during the war, including returning to work after being injured when a bomb hit the operations room. 

The wreath was laid at RAF Hornchurch to celebrate what would have been Joy Caldwell's 100th birthday

The wreath was laid at RAF Hornchurch to celebrate what would have been Joy Caldwell's 100th birthday. From left to right: Sanders Draper School Year 10 students Jessica Hampton and Stephanie-ray Callow, chairman of RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre Tony Philpot, Joy Caldwell’s niece Sally Russell and the treasurer of RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre Jeff Skillman - Credit: Tom Barnes

Sally said she was asked to attend the ceremony by Joy’s son, John Nicholson, who lives in Oxfordshire. 

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She was unaware until she arrived, however, that Joy was named a house hero at Sanders Draper after a public vote last year. 

Sally said her aunt would not “have said she was a hero". 

“I think she would have felt she was representative of women from that era,” she said. 

Unfortunately, a boiler issue last Wednesday meant most of the children were not in school, something Sally said was a “shame”.

However, the laying of the floral wreath at RAF Hornchurch was still able to go ahead. 

Sally said: “I felt it shouldn’t only be Joy that should be remembered, but all those that served at Hornchurch.” 

Sanders Draper School, which was renamed as such in September 2021 after seven years of being known as Sanders School, shares its name with a pilot who saved staff and pupils after steering his plane from its classrooms while plummeting to the ground. 

Speaking last year, Tom Fitch, who was a student at the time, told the Recorder: “Then there was an almighty crash. There was no holding us back then, we all ran outside and saw the devastation.

"The aircraft was completely upside down. 

"I've lived a full life and had a wonderful family. Sanders Draper's decision that day changed the course of history. 

“He gave his life to save others and we are all so grateful for that. It was a courageous and heroic act." 

Joy passed away in November last year at the age of 99.

The Recorder wants to help our readers pay tribute to lost loved ones by publishing obituaries in the paper, celebrating their lives and achievements. 

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