In the early 1930s, Joan Hart and her eight young siblings used to walk up to the army vet camp in Melton to look at the horses.
Her father worked there at the time as a civil servant and the family always visited after going to church on a Sunday.
And as she celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday, nine horses and riders from the camp paid a special visit to her home in the town to rekindle those treasured memories.
Joan’s family kept it all a secret but on the stroke of 11am the clip-clop sound of horses hooves on tarmac could be heard as the special delegation made its way to the home she shares with daughter Geraldine Frieland and son-in- law Clive.
The service personnel sang happy birthday to her and presented her with a cake as a large group of family members gathered around and neighbours looked on.
Joan said: “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the horses.
“They all came and stood in a row and they looked absolutely wonderful.
“I didn’t expect anything like that on my birthday – it’s a day I shall never forget.”
Joan was born and brought up in the town, the oldest of nine siblings born to Thomas and Mable. They lived in Egerton Road on Snow Hill.
The Remount Depot, or Defence Animal Centre (DAC) as it is now known, has always played a big part in her life.
She recalled: “My father was a civil servant at the Remount Depot.
“He had lovely handwriting so they asked him to write all the horses names outside their stables.
“When we had been to church on a Sunday we would all walk up there with mother to look at the horses and see what my father had written.”
Joan’s son-in- law, Clive, said she was totally taken by surprise when the DAC horses and riders arrived to celebrate her special birthday.
He said: “We brought her outside on the pretext of taking a family photograph.
“And when we saw them coming down the road we just said ‘oh look, here come some horses’.
“They stopped outside the house and started singing Happy Birthday to Joan and then gave her a cake.
“She nearly fell out of her wheelchair, it was that much of a surprise to her.”
Joan, who now lives in a house built by her late husband – local builder Robert Hart, had four daughters although one of them has since passed on.
She also has eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Her memories from her childhood were sparked recently when horses from the DAC began walking past her home while being exercised around the town.
And, with the help of her family, she wrote to the camp last year to tell her about her memories of visiting it when her father worked there.
An invite swiftly followed and Joan was given a tour of the Asfordby Road base.
That then led to her special birthday visit from the horses and riders.
It was the idea of W01 (Reg Sgt Maj) Stuart Rowles, who accompanied the mounted procession to Joan’s house.
He said: “I remembered in her letter that she said was 99-and- a-half so I thought it would be a really nice thing to do when she turned 100 for us to visit and give her a birthday cake.
“She was over the moon when we arrived – it was clearly a complete shock for her.
“Not everyone gets to live to 100 so it is nice if you can do something special for them.
“She’s told me lots of stories about her visits to the camp when she was a child and she was so grateful that we had gone to see her on her birthday.”
He added: “The riders were all young people and it was nice for them to get involved in something like this.
“I’ve been with the regiment for more than 26 years and I don’t remember us ever doing anything like this before.”
In 1918, the year Joan Hart was born:
l The First World War ended with the Armistice being signed in November
l The Royal Air Force was formed
l The Representation of the People Act was passed allowing women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification to vote
l David Lloyd George was British Prime Minister, one of 19 different PMs in her lifetime
l George V was on the British throne, one of only four monarchs since she was born