Westbourne friends’ pride as they watch Tim blast off

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‘I’M shaking with pride’.

That was the reaction from Major Tim Peake’s lifelong friend after watching him blast off into space.

Phil Towle grew up just a few doors away from Major Peake in the village of Westbourne.

And yesterday the 46-year-old events organiser put on a show at Westbourne Social Club, where hundreds of friends and well-wishers packed into the hall to watch the launch live.

Following a noisy and excited countdown, an enormous cheer went up as the rocket safely took off with the first British astronaut on board.

After watching history being made, Mr Towle said: ‘Everybody is absolutely stoked.

‘The atmosphere was electric. It was touch and go for a moment when we couldn’t get a live stream but we got it working about 30 seconds before he took off.

‘It actually added to the sense of anticipation.

‘I was shaking with pride. To see him sitting in that capsule was amazing.

‘I still can’t quite believe that he has gone into space.’

Just a few weeks ago Major Peake visited Westbourne for a catch-up with friends and family in the local pubs.

Old friend Sarah Webb, from Emsworth, said: ‘Tim is just so lovely. He’s just as you’ve seen him on TV – calm, collected. He loves the outdoors. He is a really, genuinely nice person.

‘In a quiet moment I asked him “are you really okay about it all?”.

‘And he said yes straight away.

He just couldn’t wait for it all to get underway.’