Joan Banner

SOOKE HISTORY: From war bride to a cheery neighbourhood friend

Joan Banner died Jan. 13

Elida Peers | Contributed

One of the interesting facets of our community history was when the war brides arrived after the Second World War – among them was Joan Banner, arriving by the steamer, sailing from Southampton to Halifax and then crossing Canada train.

Joan Poole Banner, who raised three boys and three girls in Sooke, died Jan. 13.

Born in 1925, Joan was the youngest of five children of Henry and Annie Poole. The family lived in Malvern, England, on the outskirts of Coventry.

Left an orphan early in life, Joan was a girl who was born with a nature that made the best of things, regardless of circumstances.

She went from an orphanage into household service at 15, in 1940, the year the German air force unleashed a barrage of bombs on Coventry, destroying it.

When Joan was 17, she joined the Women’s Army Territorial Service and became a cook’s helper at Aldershot, working with other women with whom she could enjoy friendship. On a pub visit, she met a young Canadian infantryman from Shirley, Walter Banner, who was stationed at Farnborough.

The two hit it off, and when Walt Banner returned to Britain in 1945 from service in Germany, they married in December 1945.

Walt was shipped back to Canada the following April, but it wasn’t until August that the federal government arranged Joan’s passage.

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While waiting in England, Joan got a job soldering condensers. Meanwhile, she’d heard from husband Walt back in Shirley, who said he and his brothers were going into business together – they were going to buy a donkey.

Joan’s response was, “I’m not looking after that one – I had no idea he meant a mechanical donkey engine and thought it was a live donkey!”

Met in Victoria by her new husband, Joan was shocked when they drove in his two-seat car over gravel roads to the Ted and Frances Banner home in Shirley – she kept thinking – “everything is so small, where are all the houses, where are all the people?”

Walt and his brothers Ed and Cliff did operate a logging show for a time, and the young couple soon found a place of their own on Anderson Road near Muir Creek.

Their family made their final move to a house and acreage on Grant Road. Joan was such a friendly person she was soon in the middle of everything, taking part in many community activities. A dedicated worker for the Anglican Church, she was a member of the Mothers’ Union.

Walt was devastated to learn he was stricken with cancer and died at 37, leaving his wife with six children to raise: Julie, Mike, Gail, Rick, Len and Jill.

Joan’s indomitable spirit came to the fore, and while it was a struggle, the family always managed, and they remained in their Grant Road home. Her children recall that though there were hard times with Joan, there was still lots of fun and laughter. She never regretted that she had become a war bride.

With her children grown, lots of friends around, and grandchildren coming to visit, Joan remained living on her own, then moved into Ayre Manor and in recent years was a resident at Broadmead Lodge. She enjoyed the 90th birthday party given by her children.

Predeceased by her daughter Julie, Joan leaves her son Mike (Margaret) daughter Gail (Walter Cook) son Len (Lori) all in Sooke, son Rick (Diane) in Courtenay and daughter Jill (Rod Cook) in Campbell River, son-in-law Greg Mann in Fort St. John and three nephews in England. . She leaves as well, her 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Joan’s family plans a memorial gathering in future when the pandemic circumstances allow.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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