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Battle of Britain veteran, from King's Lynn, lived his life to the full - right to the end

PUBLISHED: 14:38 20 October 2015 | UPDATED: 14:38 20 October 2015

Charles Stokes after celebrating his 101st birthday. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Charles Stokes after celebrating his 101st birthday. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

The remarkable life of one of the last of the Battle of Britain veterans has come to an end - but his family said he would continue to be an inspiration to them.

Charles Stokes, whose RAF career included a spell looking after legendary air ace Douglas Bader’s Hurricane at Duxford, died on Sunday, aged 102, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn, after a short illness.

His son, David, paying tribute on behalf of the family, said Mr Stokes’s children – he and Peter, Jean and Julie – all found inspiration in how he lived.

He said: “Even after 102 years, he was really positive about life, always looking forward to the next milestone.

“He lived independently in his own house without carers right up until the last month, which took determination and amazing problem solving skills.

“When something went wrong he always managed to find a solution. When he lost the sight of one eye, he changed all the lighting in the house so he could see better with the good one. As a young man, someone told him to join the RAF and see the world, which he did, and that experience gave him the desire to be always looking ahead for the next challenge.

“So he always had a project to work on which kept his brain active and he made his body follow suit.

“Above all we admire him for the love he gave to all his friends and family, especially our mother for 70 years, even becoming her full-time carer towards the end of her life.

“He has been a great inspiration to us all – not just in how to live a long life, but also a very full and caring one.”

Mr Stokes, who lived in Gaywood, said a few years ago that staying active was the secret to a long life.

His day started around 5.30am, when he got up for a cup of tea. He told the EDP at the time: “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.”

He wrote his memoirs at the age of 100 and David said his father, who had an incredible memory, had lived through a century of change by sticking to his principles.

During the Second World War, the veteran had been mentioned in despatches for his engineering skill, after helping install a modification to the RAF’s Hurricanes and Spitfires, which saved countless lives.

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

He told the EDP a few years ago: “One day my section leader said to me ‘go and get some car rear view mirrors. Flt Lt 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.”

All profits from his autobiography were donated to the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

He leaves four children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

The funeral will be at St Faith’s Church, Gaywood, King’s Lynn on Tuesday, November 3 at 1.45pm.

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