WW2 naval veterans Stan and George honoured on their 100th birthdays

Topic: Community Storyline: HMS Forward (Birmingham)

Many happy returns to two men who served their nation in its darkest hour and marked their 100th birthdays in nautical style.

Sailors from Birmingham’s Reservist unit HMS Forward joined a family celebration marking the milestone for former gunner Stanley Albert Thomas in Solihull.

And in Salisbury, Arctic and Atlantic Convoy veteran – and oldest member of the town’s Royal Naval Association branch – George Notley was surrounded by friends and fellow former sailors to mark his big day.

Dressed in No.1s, Forward’s Able Seamen Laura Stewart-Hammond and Dillon Cavil added a little present-day Royal Navy recognition to Stanley’s celebration in the West Midlands.

Stan was one of three brothers who served their nation between 1939 and 1945. Two went into the Navy, a third with the Army in North Africa. All survived the conflict, although eight decades on, Stan is the last of the trio still with us.

He served as an able seaman gunner – first with destroyer HMS Ilex for more than two years, then a draft of more than four years to HMS Guardian, a netlaying vessel which supported operations in the Mediterranean.

Stan’s son-in-law Mark Forty said the centenarian found a letter he received from First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key thanking the gunner for his World War 2 service to be "most touching” and was full of praise for Laura and Dillon, who gave up time from their weekend to join the veteran’s party.

“The expression on his face said it all when they appeared around the corner to people singing happy birthday, holding the cake!” said Mr Forty.

“In true naval tradition, he noticed how well their boots were shining and how smart they looked.” 

George Notley’s naval career spanned a tumultuous 33 years from joining as a boy in 1936 to leaving at the height of the Cold War and moon landings in 1969.

His wartime service thrust him into the most hazardous of duties on convoy duties in the Arctic and Atlantic. He would also have seen action in the Pacific, but the war with Japan was effectively over by the time his ship arrived in Singapore in 1945; instead he helped return prisoners of war back to the UK.

He’s also one of the last survivors of Operation Pedestal, the crucial convoy in the summer of 1942 which demonstrated the resolve of the Allies to sustain Malta.The convoy suffered heavy losses – George witnessed the loss of carrier HMS Eagle – but reached its destination and delivered its supplies.

Like Stanley, George received a card from the King and Queen, as well as a cake and a bottle of rum.

“George is the life and soul of the Salisbury RNA and it was an absolute honour to celebrate this incredible milestone with him. Wishing you a very happy birthday George!” said Dave Kerley, secretary of the RNA’s Salisbury branch.