Former wartime pilot Len celebrates 100th birthday in Sidmouth

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 February 2020

Len Baldwin with his daughter Anne Lake, left, grand-daughter Joanna and her husband Tim. Ref shs 07 20TI 7956. Picture: Terry Ife

Len Baldwin with his daughter Anne Lake, left, grand-daughter Joanna and her husband Tim. Ref shs 07 20TI 7956. Picture: Terry Ife

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A former World War Two pilot celebrated his 100th birthday in Sidmouth on Saturday, February 8.

Len Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7967. Picture: Terry IfeLen Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7967. Picture: Terry Ife

Len Baldwin was surrounded by 12 family members, including two helicopter pilots, at the Sidmouth Nursing Home as he raised a glass to living for a century.

His daughter Anne Lake travelled down from Sussex, and his grand-daughter Joanna Blundell-Jones came from Sheffield with her husband Tim. His other grandson, also called Tim, joined via FaceTime from Japan, along with his own family.

Other guests included friends from All Saints Church, neighbours and carers from the days before Mr Baldwin went into the nursing home.

As well as the customary greeting from the Queen, Mr Baldwin received cards from the aviation community at Solent airfield.

Len Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7963. Picture: Terry IfeLen Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7963. Picture: Terry Ife

Mrs Lake said: "Considering how much time Dad spends sleeping these days he rallied very well, and greeted all his guests with a smile. The staff had primed him well.

"He is the first in our family to reach 100 years. Amazing."

Mr Baldwin went to school in Reading and worked in the laboratory of the Cambridge gas works, before the war broke out.

He applied for aviation training and eventually joined the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable in the Far East, flying Grummond Avengers.

Len Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7971. Picture: Terry IfeLen Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7971. Picture: Terry Ife

They bombed targets in Tokyo Bay in August 1945. His plane was damaged in a dog fight, and having lost a crew member, he flew out to sea and was picked up by the American fleet.

He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

After the war, he married Jill on January 1, 1947 and they were together for 71 years.

He spent the rest of his working career in the gas industry, managing plants in Exeter, Bristol and Plymouth, eventually overseeing the production of gas for the whole of the south west.

Len Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7940. Picture: Terry IfeLen Baldwin celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends. Ref shs 07 20TI 7940. Picture: Terry Ife

When the introduction of natural gas made those plants obsolete, Mr Baldwin was employed to teach safety procedures to gas fitters.

He retired in 1982 and moved with Jill to Sidmouth, where they became active members of All Saints Church.

He was also part of the management team for Rose Lawn Care Home for some years.

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