A woman who was a searchlight operator during the Second World War has celebrated her 100th birthday by watching the premiere of a new film about a D-Day veteran.

Margaret Joyce was called up in 1939 and operated searchlights in Dagenham, the Luftwaffe's main target in London. 

She celebrated her centenary at the premiere of The Great Escaper, which follows the story of former Brighton mayor and long-serving councillor Bernard Jordan who escaped from his Hove care home to attend the D-Day celebrations on Sword Beach in Normandy.

Margaret’s husband, Harry, had a direct connection to Sword Beach having landed there as an Army Commando during the war.

Maggie Davis, Margaret’s daughter, said: “Bernie [The film’s protagonist played by Michael Caine] went to Sword Beach and that’s where my dad landed as well. I feel like when he was alive, we took the mickey out of him a bit with his war stories and I wish I never had.”

Margaret, who lives in Brighton, was invited to the screening of the film at the Duke of York Picturehouse by SSAFA, the Armed Forces' Charity.

Margaret and Harry met in a cinema after war and they married in 1948.

The family have since been helped by SSAFA, which continues to support Margaret following Harry’s death.

Graham Fowler, the Joyces’ SSAFA caseworker, said: “They were an astonishingly brave couple. Margaret was a searchlight operator in the war in Dagenham, which was the Luftwaffe’s main target in London. They would first try to take out the searchlights with machine guns before bombing the factories; it was a really dangerous job.

“Harry was a very brave man too. When I applied for his service history they came back saying that his date of birth was wrong. ‘No,’ twinkled Harry, ‘I lied and said I was 18. I was only 17 really.’

“Harry went on to join the Army Commandos, an elite unit reserved only for special operations. He survived the Dieppe raid, where thousands died, and took part in the Rhine Crossing.”