Veterans’ farewell to Army heroine who had no close relatives


Joan Babbage served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the Army, and won medals for missions in Belgium.

She died two weeks ago, days before her 99th birthday.

Ms Babbage, of Torquay, never married and had no children or siblings, so a solicitor appealed to veterans to attend her funeral.

The response was huge with around 60 people turning up to pay their respects after members of the Royal British Legion also helped to put out a call.

A spokesman for Boyce Hatton solicitors, which made the initial appeal, said: “We were astonished by the response and interest.”

It is not known precisely what Ms Babbage did during the war but it was uncommon for women to serve in or near the front line.

Her friend Pam Minchington said: “She never talked much about her service. From what I gather she did enjoy it. She was stationed in Belgium and had a lot to do with passing messages.

“She was a war veteran and was always very proud of her medals. She wouldn’t have expected a big turnout at her funeral.

“I think it was just going to be six or seven people originally.”


Brian Jarvis, who led the service on Wednesday, said that Joan enlisted in the ATS in August 1942.

“She was very proud of her time with the ATS and, of course, those of us here today are also so proud of what she did for her country during such a terrible conflict.

“Joan was awarded three medals – the Defence Medal, Service Medal and the France and Germany Star, representing the time she spent on mainland Europe before the end of the war in liberating occupied parts of France, the Netherlands and Belgium, before the push into Germany. “During her time in the Army, one night she was with a guard who heard a movement in the dark.

“Halt, who goes there!” was the call. No reply, so the guard released shots into the darkness and then silence… the following morning they found a dead sheep.

“However, Joan remembered that evening they were served the most fabulous roast lamb, with plenty for everyone. Despite enjoying a lovely meal, animal lover Joan did feel sorry for the sheep.”

After the war, Ms Babbage worked as office manager at a printers and stationers in Torquay.

Richard Hopkins, of the local Royal British Legion, attended the funeral.

He said: “We felt we had to be here. So, a few phone calls and that’s what it’s all about.”

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