Happy birthday to 100-year-old Thatcham RAF veteran
A HAPPY 100th birthday was celebrated by Thatcham man Tom Hawkins last weekend.
The RAF veteran marked his centenary on Saturday, May 15, the same day that the Royal British Legion was formed in 1921.
Mr Hawkins, "a massive fan" of The Queen, was delighted to receive his special card with his family.
His daughter Elizabeth Bailey said: "He was fantastic. Sadly since we lost my mum his mental deterioration has been quite rapid but on Saturday he really did rise to the occasion.
"He came over to my house in Ufton Nervet. We obviously couldn't have a big celebration but it was a lovely afternoon. We had a lovely time and he was very, very happy at the end of it."
Mr Hawkins was born in Birmingham and didn't leave the city until he joined the RAF at the start of the Second World War, taking him to Italy and France where he met his wife Francine.
The Newbury Weekly News reported on the couple's 65th wedding anniversary in 2011 that the pair had met in 1944 in France.
Before marrying, when Mr Hawkins was aged 25 and his bride-to-be was aged 20, they encountered some difficulties, as Mr Hawkins approached his commanding officer for permission to marry and was told: “No, leave the French rose in its own back garden. We had enough trouble in the First World War.”
The commanding officer eventually changed his mind, but Mr Hawkins had to return to Italy for another eight months and then his unit was sent to Austria for a year. The couple stayed in contact through letters, and they eventually married in Lyon in 1946 before settling in the UK.
They moved to London, where Mr Hawkins set up his own travel company, chartering planes between the UK and the USA and Canada.
Mrs Bailey said her parents loved to travel and were keen golfers, having many wonderful family holidays.
The couple were married for 71 years and had three daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mr and Mrs Hawkins moved to Rosedale Gardens in Thatcham 18 years ago, and his neighbours turned out to celebrate his centenary on Saturday.
Mrs Bailey said: "The people at Rosedale Gardens are so sweet, they put balloons and banners outside his house. He got lots of cards, including the RAF and the Queen.
"He is a massive fan of the Queen. He got a knock on the door, because it arrives by special delivery, and there was his card from Queen. It was a real highlight of the day for him because she means an awful lot to him."
Mrs Bailey said her father felt "very grateful" to reach 100, and that a glass of French wine a day was the secret to his long life.
"That was definitely my mother's secret and I think he's lucky as well, his father lived until 94 which was incredibly rare in those days."
His daughters described him as "a kind, loving family man who is sensitive to others and generous to a fault. From humble beginnings to a pioneering and highly successful businessman, his spirit of adventure has been an inspiration to us all."