She survived a Nazi murder plot and a plane crash — and now, at 99, Covid-19

The remarkable story of Joy Andrew continues with her recovery from the virus


Joy Andrew served in Bomber Command during the Second World War, survived a plane crash in the Libyan desert and thwarted an attempt by a Nazi to kill her. Even at 99 and living with dementia, Covid-19 was not going to beat her.

In mid-May, York-based Mrs Andrew (née Franklin) tested positive for the virus.“She wasn’t eating or drinking and her oxygen levels were very low,” said her daughter Michele, who had not been able to see her since the lockdown.

“Someone from the care home, Minster Grange, called and said they thought my mother was not going to survive. They had classed her as ‘end of life’. Under the circumstances I was allowed in to say goodbye.”

After an emotional farewell, she went home to await what she assumed was the inevitable telephone call informing her of her mum’s passing.

“Nothing happened for about three days. Then they called and said my mother was recovering. She was eating and drinking again and her vital signs had stabilised.” Her survival was “incredible”, particularly as some 20 residents at the care home are understood to have died from the virus.

“She has never let anything defeat her in her life,” her daughter said. “She had breast cancer in the 1970s and had a stroke seven years ago when my father died. Each time we thought ‘that is it’.”

Mrs Andrew’s grandparents were German Jewish refugees who opened a glove factory in London’s East End.

As a Women’s Auxiliary Air Force sergeant, she served in the operations room of Bomber Command at RAF Pocklington.

In 1946, she was sent to Dusseldorf as a member of the occupying force, the British Army of the Rhine. It was there that she survived a murder attempt.

According to Michele Andrew, the daughter of the family her mother lodged with was a Nazi, as was the driver assigned to her. “The two resented the presence of this Jewish woman and planned to kill her.”

Driving Mrs Andrew one day, he deliberately crashed the car, leaping out himself at the last minute. But she survived relatively unscathed with just a broken nose. The driver was arrested, identified as a Nazi, charged and sentenced.

During her time in Germany, she also visited Berlin, wandering alone in the remains of the Reichstag. She attended the Nuremberg trials, which were “obviously important to her”.

Mrs Andrew went on to become one of the first BOAC hostesses flying the Africa route — and had another near-death experience.

“On one flight, the captain miscalculated the route by some 1,800 miles,” Michele Andrew explained. “The plane ran out of fuel and crashed in the Libyan desert.” She survived, along with most of the other crew and a small number of passengers.

“A passing troupe of Bedouins rescued them, taking the survivors through the desert.”

She married Squadron Leader David Andrew and the couple adopted Michele in 1963.

Mrs Andrew doesn’t have grandchildren but is adored by her two nieces, four great-nephews and nieces and 13 great-great-nephews and nieces.

“We’re hoping, social distancing allowing, to have a big family celebration for my mother’s 100th birthday on November 22. Her centenary would be yet another remarkable achievement.”

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