From war drama to a pair of gloves fit for a queen

Dora Watts has turned 100.
Dora Watts has turned 100.

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Dora Watts celebrated her 100th birthday on Friday surrounded by her family – including two nephews she hadn’t seen for 55 years.

Dora has experienced a lot in her century of life, including a tense time in a lifeboat during the Second World War and making gloves for a very important customer.

Born on August 15, 1914, Dora Kathleen Roper was the youngest of four siblings and grew up at 53 West Street, Havant.

In 1937, she married Cyril James Watts at St Faith’s Church in Havant and they moved to Gosport.

Cyril volunteered to serve in the Royal Navy dockyard in Simonstown, South Africa in 1941 and Dora followed her husband with all her possessions.

But en route, the ship MV Myrmidon was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank. Dora was stranded in a lifeboat for three days before being towed ashore.

Her son, Ken Watts, 68, from Porthcawl, says: ‘All the ladies were in their nighties because the ship was struck at night and she was the only one that managed to grab her handbag.

‘When they landed in Sierra Leone she was the only one who had money to spend.’

Eventually Dora was reunited with Cyril in Simonstown. It was there she was to have two sons, James and Ken.

When her husband died suddenly in 1948, Dora returned to England with her sons and raised them by herself. She never remarried and in 1957 bought the house in Orchard Road, Havant where she still lives today.

At Dora’s 100th birthday party were her long-lost nephews on her husband’s side, John and Brian Watts. She lost contact with them when Cyril died, but they were tracked down by her sons.

Ken says: ‘She has been an absolutely indomitable spirit. She brought up two boys on her own at a time when there was very little social welfare available.’

To pay the bills, Dora worked in Stents factory making gloves.

She even prepared gloves for the Queen which were worn after her coronation.

‘I can remember her sitting in the same chair she does today, stitching those gloves. She could make three gloves in an evening,’ says Ken.

‘I have got gloves she made at home.

‘They are beautiful – you would pay hundreds of pounds for them now.’

Dora is also the proud grandmother of Sarah, James M and James L, and great-grandmother to Ariene, Lisle and Samuel.

JAMES BUTLER