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Joan Hocquard, Britain’s oldest person, dies aged 112

Amy Walker
·2-min read

Britain’s oldest person, Joan Hocquard, who drove ambulances during the second world war, has died aged 112.

Hocquard died at her home in Poole, Dorset, on Saturday. Her nephew, Paul Reynolds, 74, said she had always sought to live life to the full and that she “loved eating butter and cream and didn’t believe in dieting”.

She was born on 29 March 1908, under the reign of Edward VII, the same day as the world’s former oldest man, Bob Weighton, who died in Hampshire in May.

Their final birthday celebrations were held behind closed doors because of the national coronavirus lockdown. The pair also shared a birthday with Alf Smith from St Madoes in Perthshire, who shared the title of Britain’s oldest man with Weighton until his death in 2019 at the age of 111.

Reynolds described Hocquard as an independent spirit who had refused a card from the Queen on her 100th birthday because “she did not want people to know how old she was”.

Born in Holland Park, west London, Hocquard spent much of her childhood in Kenya, where her father was a colonial officer in charge of shipping on the Great Lakes in east Africa. She later worked as a cook in a French hotel near Geneva in Switzerland, and met her husband, Gilbert, through their shared love of sailing.

During the second world war, she drove ambulances in London before she and Gilbert moved to the south coast of England.

The couple travelled across Europe in a camper van and went on yachting holidays until his death in 1981.

In the late 1980s she met widower Kenneth Bedford, who was 20 years her junior, at the Bournemouth Gramophone Society and they had lived together since in Poole.

She lived “an extraordinary innings and died peacefully in her own home, which is all you could wish for”, said Reynolds. “She was a strong-willed character and loved telling stories about how naughty she was as a schoolgirl.”

The oldest living Briton is now Lilian Priest from Swanage in Dorset, who is 111.