Landmark birthday for man who saw first jet plane fly

William Norman James celebrates his 100th birthday today
William Norman James celebrates his 100th birthday today
Eugene Scanderfield with landlady of the Hayling Billy  Mandy Mather Picture Ian Hargreaves  (171085-1)

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There’s more than one William celebrating his birthday today.

But while Prince William is marking his 29th, William Norman James has a few more years on the clock.

William – known as Norman – is 100 today and daughter Carol Crowhurst says her dad is proud to share the same birth date as the famous prince.

Norman was born in Portsmouth on June 21 1911 and as a young man was employed as a chauffeur. Getting behind the wheel of a Rolls Royce has given him many good memories over the years and he often drove important people around the city and up to London.

In 1939, he even got to drive the Rolls Royce as part of the procession that took place to celebrate Pompey lifting the FA Cup.

During the Second World War Norman was in the Royal Air Force and was at Cromwell, Lincolnshire, to witness history being made.

‘One evening a few of the men were called out of a hangar and told to wait,’ explains Carol. ‘It was May 15 1941 and he saw this plane shoot off without propellers – which they had never seen before – and it was the first ever jet, invented by a man called Frank Whittle.’