WW2 Veteran Joan Sprigg

WWII

Veteran Recalls Birmingham Blitz 80 Years On

The 80th anniversary of the Blitz is on September 7, 2020

WW2 Veteran Joan Sprigg

Ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Blitz  on September 7, 2020, a World War Two veteran has recalled her memories of what it was like to live through first-hand. 

Joan Sprigg, a resident at Royal Star & Garter, a charity which provides loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia, served in the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) in Birmingham at the start of the war.

The 96 year old revealed that she lied about her age to be able to join the ARP ... Joan was actually 15 years, a year too young to sign up. She said:

"So I'm afraid I told a little fib and upped my age by a couple of months, and said I was 16." 

After training, Joan was placed at a first aid post at a school in Bordesley Green to help look after casualties during 1940 when the air raids started. 

Now and then: Joan Sprigg. Credit Royal Star and Garter

The Blitz, which started on September 7, 1940, was the German bombing campaign on the UK during the Second World War. Thousands of people were killed or injured, and many buildings were destroyed in the relentless bombing campaign of the Luftwaffe. The Complete Illustrated History of World War II by Donald Sommerville puts the figure of British civilians killed at 43,000. 

Talking about her experience of the air raids, Joan remembers a terrifying time. She said:

"They used to start quite early, and they would sometimes go on for 13 hours."

The building Joan was working in shook when the bombs exploded, she would administer first aid and help care for those with more serious injuries before they were taken to hospital. 

 

Video credit: Royal Star and Garter.

Birmingham was home to a lot of vital factories, including where the Spitfire was manufactured - an important target for the German Luftwaffe. 

Joan's resilience kept her going, despite her young age. She said:

“Although I was very young somehow you coped, you got through it. The morning after an air raid, you would pick your way through the debris, but there was never a thought of giving in."

In 1942, aged 18, she joined the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Group Command at RAF Uxbridge where she worked for the remainder of the war.