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New documentary explores life of former Grantham mayoress and 100-year-old Navy veteran Joan Briggs





A new documentary explores the life and experiences of a 100-year-old veteran.

Joan Briggs, former mayoress of Grantham and who served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, is the focus of a new documentary filmed by Grantham College students.

The documentary - set to premiere at the Savoy Cinema in Grantham on Sunday, April 21 - sees Joan recount her life, including starting her service in the Navy at 17 years old, meeting her husband former mayor Ron Briggs and her time as mayoress when she met the likes of the Queen Mother.

Joan Briggs, 100, outside the Guildhall in 2023.
Joan Briggs, 100, outside the Guildhall in 2023.

“The film is just me talking about where I went and what I did,” said Joan.

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She added: “When they were filming, the students asked me one question but I couldn’t hear properly.

“So, I just started talking and I went on about the time I served in the Navy. I was in it for five years and I loved it.

Joan Briggs during her Royal Navy days.
Joan Briggs during her Royal Navy days.

“But you have to leave when you get married. I met my husband and that’s why I happen to be here.

“There was an awful lot to the documentary but I loved every minute of it.”

Joan “loved every minute” of filming the documentary.
Joan “loved every minute” of filming the documentary.

Born on the Isle of Man, Joan joined the Navy as an ‘immobile wren’, who were women prepared to work for the Navy if they were near their home.

She joined this position as a compromise with her parents who didn’t want her to join the Army.

When she was 21 she served in Scotland and met Ron who was an anti-submarine detector.

Joan and Ron married in 1946 in Little Ponton.
Joan and Ron married in 1946 in Little Ponton.

The pair married in Ron’s home village Little Ponton in 1946. Ron, who Joan “loved very much”, later became mayor of Grantham in 1963 during the quincentenary of the granting of its charter.

While she stood by his side as mayoress, Joan met the Queen Mother and the Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home.

Joan (left) with husband Ron Briggs during his time as Mayor of Grantham.
Joan (left) with husband Ron Briggs during his time as Mayor of Grantham.

Joan and her family will be special guests at the Savoy premiere, alongside the students who filmed it and film lecturer Steve Healey who assisted.

Joan when she met the Queen Mother.
Joan when she met the Queen Mother.
Joan when she met the Queen Mother.
Joan when she met the Queen Mother.

Steve first came across Joan after she was pictured in the Grantham Journal outside the Guildhall in salute on Remembrance Day last year.

After hearing about her life, he thought “we need to do something about her story”.

Steve said: “In a few years time there will not be veterans left from the Second World War and their stories should not be forgotten.

“It would be terrible if their stories just got left untold or people forgot what happened in the first place.”

While filming, Steve was left astounded by Joan’s memory.

“It was so interesting that she could remember everything from when she was 17 years old,” said Steve.

He added: “She loved it. I think the students definitely benefited from it as well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing her reaction because she got a bit emotional throughout the interview.

“It will be nice for her and her family.”



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