Gosport centenarian and former RAF bomber pilot's delight at surprise birthday celebration
A FORMER RAF bomber pilot celebrated his 100th birthday with a surprise from the Solent Gosport Brass Band, family and friends, and a special visit from the Mayor of Gosport at his care home on September 23.
Ian Hawkins, a former member of 214 Squadron flying Sterlings, marked his centenary at Langdale Care Home, where he lives.
He says: ‘I was moved out of the dining area into the garden and I was surprised to see so many people there.
‘I thought it was going to be a bit of a party but I didn’t realise it would be quite so full as it turned out to be. Luckily, I did still manage to get a word in edgeways.
‘I got a card from the Queen. It felt very good. I was in the RAF for a time and I’m 100 years old and that was enough for the Queen to contact me.’
Born at Lee-on-the-Solent to Evelyn and Herbert, Ian was an only child. He spent a happy childhood growing up there with fond memories of a caring and supportive family.
Ian believes his longevity is partly down to his parents who through his childhood ‘taught him a great deal of how to live’.
He recalls one of his fondest memories: ‘In my early days, we didn’t have a car. It wasn’t until my grandmother died that my father inherited enough money to buy a small car.’
After school, qualified to study teaching at King Alfred College, Winchester, which was soon taken over by the military and converted into barracks. He was so intrigued by the Battle of Britain going on in the skies above him at the time he instead packed up the course and signed up for the Royal Air Force.
He explains: ‘Once we passed our medical and intelligence tests, I was told go home and wait to be called up. When I was called up all sorts of things happened. I was in the RAF waiting for training to become a pilot to see if I was physically fit. We were packed on to a train up to Glasgow, on to a ship and we were going to go across the Atlantic to America.
‘We did our training in America. It was wonderful. We were trained by Americans, or civilian Americans who could fly. Once we had 200 flying hours most of us were given our wings.’
After 16 operations he became a flying instructor in Northamptonshire. He later returned to flying with 299 Squadron, this time towing gliders with Sterlings.
Ian met his late wife, Victoria, at a dance while he was in the RAF. After they tied the knot at Gosport Register Office, they went on to have three children, Anthony, Marion and Christopher.
At the end of the war Ian went back to Winchester to continue training as a teacher. He says: ‘It was a bit different, after being a qualified bombing instructor but I managed it all right.’
Although Ian was delighted to see friends and family mark his centenary in such a special way, he did have one regret about his birthday cake.
‘Unfortunately I don't like marzipan and all the cakes had marzipan on it in some description.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
We’ve slashed the cost of digital subscriptions to our website by 50 per cent for a limited time.
You can now subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, for less than 13p a day.