‘A pillar of the family that we all look up to’

John Andrews celebrates his 100th birthday with family in Old Portsmouth.  Picture: Paul Jacobs
John Andrews celebrates his 100th birthday with family in Old Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs
  • John Andrews celebrates turning 100 with a family party in Old Portsmouth
  • John served in World War Two in the Royal Norfolk Regiment
Have your say

John Andrews has done a lot in his lifetime, including service in the Second World War.

To celebrate his centenary, the 100-year-old from Cowplain raised a toast at a party surrounded by family and friends.

John pictured in 1939.

John pictured in 1939.

Niece Linda and her daughter Jules threw John a party at their home in Old Portsmouth, and he also receieved a card from the Queen.

‘I have had a good life with lovely family,’ says John.

‘He is an amazing man,’ says nephew John Andrews, who was named after his uncle.

‘In fact, in character he has never changed – he has always been a pillar of the family that we have looked up to.’

I have had a good life with lovely family

John Andrews, 100, from Cowplain

‘He hasn’t changed in about 30 years, he has always been Uncle John,’ adds great-niece Jules.

John was born in Stalham on the Norfolk Broads and was one of eight children.

His earliest memories are seeing the Leatherdale stagecoach, which ran from Stalham to Norwich, outside the Maidshead public house and being taken by his older brother Bob to see soldiers camped near the town in 1918.

He remembers being given a cup of soup by a red-headed Scottish cook sporting a bushy moustache.

John pictured in 1920 with his siblings, John is front left.

John pictured in 1920 with his siblings, John is front left.

After leaving school at 14, John worked for local painters and decorators the Spanton Brothers.

As the apprentice John was given all the mundane tasks of cleaning out paint pots and brushes, and recalls precarious journeys between jobs with a ladder balanced on his bicycle.

In 1939 John received his call-up papers and reported to Britannia Barracks for initial training in Norwich and then joined the Royal Norfolk Regiment.

He was posted to RAF Watton and then to RAF Coltishall on patrol duties.

At the time Douglas Bader, the famous pilot, was stationed there and was a familiar figure in the mess. After a successful mission John recalls that Douglas would do a victory roll over the base to celebrate.

In 1942 John was reassigned to the Anglo-American landings in North Africa in what became Operation Torch, landing in Algiers in November.

From here he was involved in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily in 1943, and then on to Italy and ending in 1944 when all the troops met up in Rome.

He stayed there until 1945 and then returned to the UK.

After the war John and his brother Herbert moved to West Drayton on the outskirts of London, near to their sister Bessy.

In the 1950s John returned back to Stalham to take care of his mother after his father died.

He became a caretaker at the local school, where he stayed until he retired.

In 1987, John moved to Cowplain to be closer to his family, who had relocated to the Portsmouth area.

John has never married and has no children.

He has been an active member of the British Legion since the war, helping people less fortunate than himself.

He still lives independently at his home in Cowplain and buys his own shopping.

John says the secret to his longevity is that he still does his old army training excerises.