Former Naval officer turns 100: ‘I saw the first and last bombs to hit Portsmouth’

A FORMER Professional Technical Officer in the Navy who saw the first and last ever bombs to hit Portsmouth celebrates his 100th birthday.

By Elsa Waterfield
Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 11:27 am

Roy Downing, who lives in Cosham, turned 100-years-old a week ago on July 19, celebrating with a meal at La Casa Flamenco, in Port Solent alongside 28 of his family and friends.

Seven of these were members of the Hispanic Society, of which Roy is a member, including the secretary who presented him with a certificate and named him an Honorary Member of the group.

‘It was good, it went on from 6 o'clock until 9:30. Nobody went home hungry or thirsty, I had two cakes, one from my daughter who brought it from Sunningdale, and one from the Hispanic Society.’

Pictured: Roy Downing at his home in Cosham, Portsmouth Picture: Habibur Rahman

Roy’s daughter Joy and step-daughter Lynn attended and helped to organise the celebration, along with his grandson Dan who travelled from Finland and his great-granddaughter, Olivia.

Roy’s other daughter, Sandy, lives in West Texas.

Fluent in Spanish, Roy lived in Spain for over 20 years with his wife Lisa and has lived and worked in six different countries over the years from Sri Lanka, Singapore, Scotland and South Africa.

Read More

Read More
Well-loved matron who crossed paths with the stars celebrates her 90th at the Ki...
Roy Downing celebrating his 100th birthday at La Casa Flamenca, Port Solent.

Roy and Lisa, who he describes as a ‘wonderful woman’, once won a Spanish dancing competition known as the Saviana, and were also keen golfers.

While Roy has done his fair share of travelling the globe, he has always returned to Portsmouth, where he has lived his whole life.

‘I am Portsmouth through and through, and very proud,’ he says.

Having started as a shipwright apprentice in the Dockyard, Roy studied naval architecture at the Portsmouth Municipal College, going on to work and travel as a Professional Technical Officer in the Navy until he left in 1987.

Pictured: Copy picture of Roy Downing when he was 23 in the Navy with his daughter, Joy.

‘My father was an ambulance driver here, unofficially I used to go with him, through all these terrible sights, dodging fires and bombs - it was worse than my war service!

‘I did a bit of submarine dodging in the Atlantic and the Med, but I never saw anything so bad as I saw in Portsmouth,’ says Roy.

Born on New Road, Roy experienced the first and last bombs to hit Portsmouth during the Blitz.

‘I was working the nightshift in the dockyard on my way to work, cycling through North End, when the first bomb was dropped on Portsmouth, hitting the gas works at Tipner.’

Pictured: Roy Downing with his nephew John Downing at his home in Cosham, Portsmouth. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘The last bomb was the flying bomb which landed in Stamshaw. We were sitting there having breakfast and this thing went past our window, we heard the engine cut out and the next thing we heard was the blast,’ he says.

Roy has had many hobbies and interests over the years, from ballroom dancing, cycling, golf, painting and of course, travelling.

Upon reaching 100, Roy says: ‘Don’t smoke, eat sensibly, exercise, keep your mind active, but the main thing is, don’t give in!’

Pictured: Copy picture of Roy Downing when he was 17 and came third in a bicycle race.