A former Second World War pilot from Yateley has flown into his 100th year.

William (Bill) Harrison celebrated the landmark birthday on Friday (April 7) surrounded by family and friends in Hanover Close.

The second of seven children born into a farming family in the Yorkshire Dales, Mr Harrison learnt his trade as a dairy farmer from an early age.

He attended Skipton Grammar School before joining the Army Reserves and was called up at the start of the Second World War.

Mr Harrison’s unit was sent to Northern France as part of the Expeditionary Force and when they were forced to retreat, he was one of those who had to cross Northern France on foot and was fortunate to find a place on the last ship to leave Cherbourg.

He then volunteered for pilot training and once accepted was sent to Canada for his training.

Mr Harrison learnt to fly various aircraft and started operational service as a Beaufighter pilot.

Mr Harrison celebrates his special day with his family and Yateley Mayor Gerry Crisp
Mr Harrison celebrates his special day with his family and Yateley Mayor Gerry Crisp

His squadron was posted to North Africa where he had the role of attacking enemy shipping in the Mediterranean and arms dumps on Greek islands.

When the war ended, Mr Harrison returned to dairy farming and bought a farm in the Pennines. He married Inez Taylor in 1940 and they had three daughters. His wife died just before their 73rd wedding anniversary.

Mr Harrison, who has five grandchildren and six great grandchildren, has had various careers, including running a newsagents and owning a guest house in Paignton.

'Hugely respected'

He moved to Yateley in 1980 when he became grounds supervisor at Sandhurst and was a keen member of Yateley Bowls Club, being captain on many occasions.

Yateley Mayor Gerry Crisp, who presented Mr Harrison with a box of chocolates, said he was still playing bowls at the age of 98 and was hugely respected by his fellow players.

“It seems he has only stopped playing because he has had part of his leg amputated, but he might be back,” he added.

“He has a strong Christian belief which has given him great strength in times of adversity.”