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Great-great-grandmother who lived through the Blitz celebrates 100th birthday

PUBLISHED: 14:37 05 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:47 05 March 2019

Norwich great-great-grandmother Lily Barnes celebrated her 100th birthday at the social club she helped found. Photo: Submitted

Norwich great-great-grandmother Lily Barnes celebrated her 100th birthday at the social club she helped found. Photo: Submitted

Archant

A woman who witnessed bombs dropping just metres from her home during the Norwich Blitz has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Mr and Mrs Barnes in 1954 with three of their five children. Picture: EVERITT BARNESMr and Mrs Barnes in 1954 with three of their five children. Picture: EVERITT BARNES

On February 28, great-great-grandmother Lily Barnes turned 100 at a party organised by Heathlands Social club, which she helped to found in 1965.

The Norwich grandmother was one of five children and her early years were spent in a family cottage in The Turn, Hevingham, attending Hevingham School.

The 100-year-old said she still remembers gathering in the playground with her classmates to watch the doomed R101 Airship fly over the school in 1930, before it crashed on its way to India later that year.

She left school at 13 and went into service at Langley Park House as a scullery maid, rising through the ranks over the next three years to secure a position in the kitchen.

Lily Barnes at her Blofield home.
Photo: Andy Darnell
 Copy: Laura DevlinLily Barnes at her Blofield home. Photo: Andy Darnell Copy: Laura Devlin

The youngster married her husband Billy Barnes aged 16, and despite warnings from family members that their relationship was doomed, stayed married to him until his death 74 years later.

Mrs Barnes was 20 when the Second World War broke out, working as a sugar beet labourer in Salhouse.

She said she had never forgotten the distinctive whine of bombs dropping in the sugar beet fields opposite her house or the buzzing engine noise of doodle bugs overhead.

Norwich was bombed heavily during the war and Mrs Barnes witnessed the destruction of Caleys chocolate factory as workers left for home and planes machine-gunning the city streets.

The couple had four sons and a daughter, but tragically two of their boys, Lenny, 15, and Eric, 21, died in a car accident and from leukaemia, respectively.

Over the coming years the couple were blessed with seven grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren.

After the war, Mrs Barnes and her husband began taking regular trips to Benidorm in Spain, forming long-lasting friendships with other couples visiting the resort.

In 1965 the Norwich grandmother joined the management committee at Heathlands Social club and worked tirelessly to establish it as a venue.

Mrs Barnes is still a committee member but has reduced her involvement in recent years to allow for more relaxation time.

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