RECOVERING from the effects of pneumonia, Royal Marine Bert Millener was supposed to be resting in his barracks in May 1941.
But instead, he was ordered to report to his ship – HMS King George V – and ended up witnessing one of the turning points in the Second World War.
Today, William Herbert Millener, who is known as Bert, is celebrating his 100th birthday.
He is one of the last survivors of the gun turrets on board the Royal Navy warships which joined forces to sink the German battleship Bismarck in retaliation for the destruction of HMS Hood.
Mr Millener, of St Michael’s Grove in Fareham, had been hospitalised with pneumonia but after being discharged, he was sent straight back to his ship.
Recounting his experience, Mr Millener said: ‘Once the ship was seen to be sinking, we all ceased fire.
‘We sponged the gun and came out of the gun turret.
‘It was three cheers!
‘We wanted to avenge the Hood and we were going to sink the Bismarck at all costs.
‘But afterwards you think about all the men on board and that they had wives and children.
‘And then you think if it hadn’t been them, it could have been us.
‘People say it was a “good show”, but your first thought is that they were servicemen, the same as we were.
‘It gets you. You don’t want to kill anyone.’
The hunt for the Bismarck came to an end on May 27, 1941.
HMS King George V and HMS Rodney engaged the ship before it was finally sunk by HMS Dorsetshire.
Mr Millener was born in Hull on November 17, 1912, a few months after the sinking of the Titanic and two years before the outbreak of the First World War.
The son of a trawler skipper, he worked on trawlers with his father and uncle before joining the Royal Marines in November 1929.
He was posted to the barracks at Eastney in Portsmouth on completion of his training in February 1931.
He married Sylvia Harwood, who died in 2004, in Fareham in 1940.
It was later that year he was drafted to the battleship HMS King George V.
After the war ended, Mr Millener worked for 25 years at the Ford factory in Eastleigh.
His son George was born in 1948.
The 100-year-old said he will celebrate his birthday today with a curry at his favourite restaurant in Gosport with friends and family.