Stay active if you want to live past 100, says King’s Lynn Battle of Britain veteran Charles Stokes

Charles Stokes from King's Lynn has celebrated his 101st birthday. Picture: Matthew Usher. Charles Stokes from King's Lynn has celebrated his 101st birthday. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
8:57 AM

As he celebrated his 101st birthday with family and friends, one of Norfolk’s last Battle of Britain veterans said staying active was the secret to a long life.

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Charles Stokes after he joined the RAF, in 1934. Picture: Matthew Usher.Charles Stokes after he joined the RAF, in 1934. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Charles Stokes looked after Douglas Bader’s Hurricane fighter in 1940, as the RAF sent the Luftwaffe packing and foiled a German invasion.

After the war, he worked at Pratt and Harbidge, the Lynn Muckworks and Dow Chemicals.

Mr Stokes, who has four children, 11 grand-children and 12 great grand-children, said: “Exercise is the secret and using your brain, because you keep your body active.

“There’s never a day when I sit down all day and do nothing.”

Mr Stokes was mentioned in despatches for his commitment to the war effort.Mr Stokes was mentioned in despatches for his commitment to the war effort.

Mr Stokes’s day starts around 5.30am, when he gets up for a cup of tea at his home in Hall Road, King’s Lynn. At 7am, he gives his grand-daughter Kim Stokes, 30, an alarm call to ensure she is up ready to work on her Phd in marine biology at her home in Cornwall.

After writing and publishing his memoirs to mark his 100th birthday last year, he is currently organising the photos which record his long and eventful life.

Some of the most recent of which show him watching the two Lancaster bombers flying over RAF Marham - after friends helped him negotiate a hedge and a ditch to find a vantage point in a stubble field.

As well as looking after Douglas Bader’s aircraft at Duxford aerodrome at the height of the Battle of Britain, Mr Stokes help install a modification to the RAF’s Hurricanes and Spitfires which saved countlesss lives.

German Messerschmitt pilots knew the British aircraft had a blind spot and were vulnerable to an attack from the rear.

“One day my section leader said to me go and get some car rear view mirrors. Flight Lieut Pearce has designed some brackets so we can fit them in our planes. Try and get 50.

“I got A WRAF to drive me into Cambridge and we went round the car dealers. They hadn’t got many spares so I said take them out of the second-hand cars.

“Many of the pilots’ lives were saved because they could see if there was anything coming from the rear.”

Mr Stokes was mentioned in despatches for his engineering skills.

Sales of the autobiography recording his RAF career and fanmily life in King’s Lynn have so far raised more than £500 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

“It’s something we all might need one day,” he said. “If people give, then they can help us.”

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