A 100-YEAR-OLD woman who helped to keep south Essex safe during the Second World War has returned to the fire station where it all began.

“Hocky” Hockets, who was based at the original fire station in Orsett Road, Grays, in what was then the National Fire Service (NFS), was greeted by family members in a special surprise three days after reaching her 100th birthday.

Throughout her extensive career with the fire service, Hocky also served time at Laindon, Billericay and Wickford NFS stations.

She later married Grays’ first Station Officer Herbert Lazell, and turned 21 on the September 15, 1940, which became known as the penultimate day of the Battle of Britain.

Inspired to do something to help and protect other people, she began training as a firewoman at Hornchurch station, a role similar to a control operator, which is what the National Fire Service described the role at that time.

Soon after, she was posted to Grays where she was quickly promoted to leading firewoman.

By March 1942, she had been transferred to Stanford-le-Hope fire station – before intense training at a National Fire Service base in Brighton prior to a long-awaited return to Grays.

During this period, she undertook the postings at the other National Fire Service fire stations across the south of the county.

Greeted by family members from across the country this week at Grays, Hocky was visibly emotional upon meeting Roger Pickett, who she has come to know for his work as collections officer at the Essex Fire Museum, positioned behind Grays fire station.

Mr Pickett said: “Hocky is an inspiration to us all.

“Her tale of helping to keep Thurrock and the surrounding areas of south Essex safe during a time when the country was at war and under immense threat domestically is very special. It was a pleasure to welcome Hocky back to Grays, where her life as a firewoman began all those years ago. Her passion for the fire service remains to this day, even at 100!”

Essex Fire Service are recruiting for people to become on-call firefighters, who are home-based and respond when their pagers go off.

Visit join.essex-fire.gov.uk/on-call.