Evacuee’s ‘sister in war’ is still her best buddy today

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As the world marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two special “wartime sisters” are celebrating a unique bond that has spanned 75 years.

Joan Stock was a frightened 11-year-old evacuee when she arrived in Hanslope from London in September 1939.

Sheila Bibby was exactly the same age, a country girl born and bred, and delighted her grandparents had taken in an evacuee the same age as her.

The pair became instant friends and were inseparable for the next six years.

They went to girl guides together, did their school work side by side, and spent happy hours playing in Hanslope fields.

Today, both aged 86, the sisters in war are still as close as ever.

“We really are like family,” said Joan. “We always called ourselves wartime sisters , but we never dreamed we’d still be such good friends 75 years on.”

Joan, whose married name is Whyberd, lives in Cumbria while Sheila still lives in Hanslope.

“We both have children and grandchildren and the two families have grown up together over the years. Whenever there’s a wedding or christening Sheila and I are there together.”

Never a week goes by without the pair having one of their long telephone chats, often reminiscing about the good old days in Hanslope.

“We talk for ages every single week. Or if there’s some news or gossip, we call each other two or three times a week,” said Joan.

She and her younger brother and sister were billeted with Horace and Sarah Herbert who lived at 45 High Street. Sheila lived with her parents just a couple of doors away.

Said Joan: “My parents visited regularly so I wasn’t really homesick. And the village really looked after us.

“I know many people have sad memories of the war, and certainly this centenary year has reminded us of all the tragedies. But I am very lucky because all I have are lovely memories of me and Sheila. For us it was a very happy time .

“Best of all, we’re still happy now. I wouldn’t be without my wartime sister for the world”