Tributes have been paid to Redcar war veteran, Joyce Dowding, after she died yesterday at the age of 97. 

Joyce was conscripted in 1940, aged 18, into the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute (NAAFI) which catered for servicemen in combat zones in the 1939-1945 war and was serving in Ypres, Belgium when the war ended.

She was one of the first women to land at Normandy after D-Day in June 1944.

She was also one of the cornerstones of the Redcar Lifeboat Ladies Guild.

She died on Wednesday, July 29 after a sudden illness.

Her involvement with the RNLI began nearly 50 years ago when she joined the Ladies Lifeboat Guild.

She told the Evening Gazette in 2012, when she was nominated for a Community Champion award: "I’d always wanted to do something for the lifeboat because my grandfather, Frederick Readman, was a seafaring man in the 1800s and my uncle, William Bullock, was in the Navy.

"I’ve lived in Redcar all my life so the sea is in my blood."

In 2010, she received a silver badge from the RNLI.

Even when, in her latter years, she was unable to join the guild to collect funds for the Redcar lifeboat, she would organise events at the care home where she lived.

Mike Picknett, Lifeboat Operations Manager at Redcar RNLI, said: "Our crew cannot do the work they do without fundraisers like Joyce. Her hard work over the years means we can be sure we have the best equipment and training available to save lives at sea."

Dr Roger Smith, Branch Chairman at Redcar RNLI, said: "We are extremely sorry to hear of Joyce’s passing. Part of the charity for so many years, she has helped raise many thousands of pounds for the Redcar lifeboats.

"It’s people like Joyce who are the backbone of the RNLI. Our sympathies go to all Joyce’s family and friends."

Joyce was a life-long friend of the entertainer Larry Grayson who, when he died, left in his will £10,000 to the Redcar lifeboat in recognition of his friendship with her.

The Generation Game host, who was one of showbusiness's biggest names in the 1970s and 1980s, was famed for exclaiming "Shut that door!"

He had come up with the hook well before his TV fame - when 20 million viewers regularly tuned in to see him - while working the summer season at a seafront theatre in Redcar.

Mayor of Redcar and Cleveland, Councillor Billy Wells, said:  “This is sad news but we can pay tribute to a life extremely well lived. Joyce did so much for her country in the war and for many decades afterwards in her home town of Redcar where she was a stalwart fundraiser for the RNLI. Rest in Peace, Joyce.”