If you're part of the Hawkesbury equestrian scene, chances are you've heard the name Joyce Brook. She is a strict officiator, and you won't be trotting around her arena with your shirt not tucked in. At 96, after nearly 70 years in the sport, travelling the world for it with late husband, Bob, and being inducted into the Equestrian Australia's Hall of Fame, Joyce is still passing on her wisdom to the next generation at the Sydney Showjumping Club—Sydney 'jump club'—in Clarendon.
She is adored by her community and a testament to the Hawkesbury's can-do attitude. But there is another story that not many people know about Joyce, and that's her World War II service. A friend of Joyce's alerted me to the fact that Corporal Gladys Joyce Lavender was a living World War II veteran. Joyce had been in the Women's Land Army but at 19 decided she wanted, in her words, 'the real thing'. She worked in the tunnels under the Conservatorium of Music. There are stories to tell, which I know her granddaughters, Rachael and Liz, are working very hard to extract from her. She hasn't spoken much about her World War II service, so it's only really just coming to light. It was a delight to present Joyce with a beautiful poppy commemorative medal, recognising the 75th anniversary of victory in the Pacific. She is one of 12,000 World War II veterans still with us in Australia, and I hope they all come forward to receive this recognition as a token of our appreciation for their service.