Most people would be happy just to reach their 100th birthday, but Sydney Crossland wanted to reach it from a height of 7,000ft, at a speed of 120mph.
It would be, in his own words, ‘better than staying at home playing Scrabble.’
Sadly, Sydney’s goal was postponed by bad weather, but on Thursday 2nd August he managed to join the exclusive club of centenarian parachutists. Born in Winchester on the 27th July, 1918 - just 15 years after the first ever manned flight - Sydney has always wanted to complete a tandem parachute jump.
‘He asked about it a couple of years ago,’ Lynne Davy, his daughter, said, ‘but I never thought it would happen.’
But with his 100th birthday approaching and having prepared himself - ‘I read a great deal about it,’ Syd said - he felt the time was right.
‘It makes a change from a mobility scooter. They don’t usually require a parachute.’
‘The view was fantastic - you could see Stonehenge,’ Syd said after he safely landed on Salisbury Plain, where the jump happened, ‘and it was amazing weather.
‘You don’t want to go skydiving in a gale.’
Syd is no stranger to adventure. After a childhood spent in Winchester, Syd travelled all over the world, from Australia to Zambia, experiencing bungee jumping, white water rafting, and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. As a trained engineer, he worked across Africa for a British firm for years before retiring to Zambia with his wife of 71 years, Olive, who passed away three years ago.
The intrepid adventurer is now back in England, living in a Guinness Partnership sheltered-housing apartment in Emsworth. When he’s not throwing himself out of planes, he can be found with a lathe in hand at the local woodwork workshop, the Wren Centre.
The skydive was not purely for an autumn year’s adrenaline rush. After a family friend brought up their recent work at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Syd decided to turn his jump into a fundraising exercise for the children’s hospital. So far, he has raised over £6,000 from over 1,000 friends, his son and daughter, his many grandchildren, and even more great-grandchildren.
Sadly, Syd is not the oldest person to swap their mobility scooter for a paracture.
‘My grandson told me I won’t be in the record books - the oldest skydiver is 103.’
So what will he be doing for his 101st birthday? Triathlon? Cage-dive with sharks?
‘I don’t know about that,’ Syd says, ‘...Maybe another skydive.’
Laura Savory, head of community fundraising at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, said: ‘We’d like to wish Sydney a very happy birthday and a huge thank you for taking on this skydive challenge for our charity. We’re so grateful to Sydney for his generosity and support, the money he has raised will help to make a real difference to seriously ill children from across the UK.’
If Sydney’s story has inspired you to take to the skies to support Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, please visit gosh.org/get-involved/fundraising-events/skydive