Transatlantic love story: WWII veterans to celebrate 70 years of marriage

Conroe, TX

William Hastings joined the Army in 1942 to beat the draft. After training in the Army Air Corps and serving in the vehicle squadron - teaching recruits how to drive equipment - all through Texas, he was shipped off to England. That’s where he met Joyce Hopwood.

Joyce joined the British Army at age 16. During the Blitz, the Germans hit her mother and father’s home. Her then 3-year-old brother was deafened by the explosion and has not heard a word since. Her family lost its house.

“We had flatbed lorrys, and we had guns on them. If we did not have enough men to run the guns, they would put the girls on them,” Joyce said. “We shot at the airplanes. What we hit, we don’t know. ... I feel that we were a big help in that situation.”

Just after Joyce had passed her badge for signal corps, she met William at St. Anne’s Church. William was with the chaplain when Joyce’s grandmother invited the two of them to tea.

“The rest is history,” Joyce said.

By December 1943, William and Joyce were married, and soon after Joyce was pregnant. Joyce retired as a first private.

Meanwhile, both their military careers would bring them to brush shoulders with famous figures and places. Joyce was in the Army with Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth, who was in the motor vehicle squad. They were even in the same barracks.

William was on the general’s staff at Normandy and then traveled through France. Much of the time, he and the others weren’t even sure of their location. But they knew one thing: “We were in the combat zone.”

When the war ended, he was in Bastogne, France.

Then the celebrations began, and the Hastings wouldn’t miss them.

At work, William declined an offer to go to Japan to stay with his family, and landed a job in the American Embassy in England, where General Eisenhower came in. William, then a sergeant, was even asked to unveil a sign in Hastings, England, for a new bar, “The GI.” He kept a postcard of the sign in his wallet for decades.

After the war, he became part of the Strategic Air Command, watching for flying saucers, which was a big secret at the time. He went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1966. He was in the reserves until 1972. After that, he served as a deputy sheriff and as a constable before Joyce finally told him it was time to really retire.

She started working for the Muscular Dystrophy Association once her children were old enough. With that organization, she claims she cared for more than 500 patients and even worked with Jerry Lewis on a telethon in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Famous interactions and big military careers aside, William and Joyce now have a new milestone to look forward to: their 70th wedding anniversary on Dec. 16, 1943. And from all accounts, it’s one well-earned.

“You couldn’t ask for a more loving couple,” friend Ronald Edminster said.

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