Portchester RAF veteran celebrates 90th birthday at sea

Brian Gattrell from Portchester, celebrated his 90th birthday on June 19. Picture: Sarah Standing
Brian Gattrell from Portchester, celebrated his 90th birthday on June 19. Picture: Sarah Standing
Share this article

For his 90th birthday, Brian Gattrell was back at sea riding the waves of the Solent. 

The birthday boy was treated to a trip on a High Speed Launch 102 boat – similar to the ones he worked on just decades before. 

Brian and Bernice enjoying the sea views. Picture: Lynne Robbins.

Brian and Bernice enjoying the sea views. Picture: Lynne Robbins.

‘We had a fantastic time. Brian just loved it,’ says his wife Bernice.

Brian was born in Portsmouth on June 19, 1929, and attended Esplanade House School, Southsea, as a young boy. 

In 1947, he joined the RAF as a carpenter before becoming a boatwright in 1951. Two years later, Brian was discharged from the service because of a leg injury. 

Brian’s son Owen Gale, 53, said: ‘He worked at Vospers as shipwright to bring himself back to fitness to rejoin the RAF. Then in 1957, he joined HMS Hornet, Gosport, Boathouse Four as a shipwright where he worked on multiple boats including the HSL 102.’ 

Brian and Bernice on their wedding day in 1973.

Brian and Bernice on their wedding day in 1973.

Brian met his wife Bernice, 73, when he returned from his trip to Gibraltar at Portchester Station. 

Bernice says: ‘My friend said to me that she knew him and he was in the RAF. He was coming back from Gibraltar but we had been writing to each other for months. 

‘We first met at Portchester Station when I was 18 years old. We were married at Fareham Registry Office in 1973.’ 

To celebrate his milestone, Brian enjoyed his trip on the HSL 102, organised by Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust, with his friends and family. Owen says: ‘We’re very proud. 

Brian Gattrell, 90, with his wife Bernice, 73, at home in Portchester. Picture: Sarah Standing

Brian Gattrell, 90, with his wife Bernice, 73, at home in Portchester. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘To see his little face light up on the boat when we gained speed – I have never seen him smile so much.’ 

‘He’s had a great time for his birthday,’ adds Bernice. 

Brian and his family on the day of his boat trip.

Brian and his family on the day of his boat trip.