March 1 2015 Latest news:
Sunday, February 16, 2014
One of Britain’s last surviving Battle of Britain veterans has published his memoirs at the age of 100.
In 1940, Charles Stokes was a member of the ground crew at RAF Duxford who looked after air ace Douglas Bader’s Hurricane fighter.
After the war, where he also saw service in France and Belgium, he returned to his home town of King’s Lynn, where he was born in Diamond Street, in 1913.
He and wife Florrie, who he met at the Majestic Cinema in 1938, went on to raise four children. He worked as a bottled gas salesman, and at factories around Lynn including the now demolished Muck Works, on Saddlebow Road, and Dow Chemicals before he retired, in 1978.
His son David, now 67, began recording interviews with his father after his mother died, in 2009.
“It’s my life, from Zeppelins to laptop,” said Mr Stokes, of Gaywood Hall Drive, who remembers German airship raids on King’s Lynn when he was a small boy and bought his first laptop at the age of 99, 18 months ago.
“It goes right through my life.
“He didn’t tell me anything at all about this to start with. We were on holiday, it was the first holiday I’d had since my wife died.
“He just said: ‘Dad, I’m going to have 10 days off, where would you like to go in this country.”
Mr Stokes Snr chose Snowdonia, where he and his wife had enjoyed happy holidays. Mr Stokes Jnr began recording, as his father described his memories.
“As we commemorate the start of World War I, it is hard to believe that he was alive at that time,” he said. “His first memories were of a Zeppelin that dropped bombs on King’s Lynn. His father and two brothers all worked on steam engines. His first job was in a garage at the beginnings of car ownership in the 1920’s.”
Mr Stokes said his father, who had an incredible memory, had lived through a century of change by sticking to his principles.
“His life has been underpinned by values that have not changed,” he said.
“His devotion to one woman for 70 years, his belief in planning in advance and saving before spending, the beauty of a garden, the virtue of clean shoes.”
Mr Stokes’s biography - Charles Stokes, A Century of Life - is now in bookshops and also available online from the publishers, priced £7.95.
The book is dedicated to Florrie, while Mr Stokes adds: “To all my family and friends who populate this book and have always been the main purpose of my life.”
All profits from the book will be donated to a cause dear to Mr Stokes’s heart, the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
“It’s a very important piece of equipment,” he said. “They need people to give them donations because the government don’t give a penny piece towards it.”