Sidmouth centenarian marks double celebration with awards from Ministry of Defence

PUBLISHED: 11:56 04 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:05 06 August 2018

Jacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday with her husband and family. Ref shs 30 18TI 8507. Picture: Terry Ife

Jacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday with her husband and family. Ref shs 30 18TI 8507. Picture: Terry Ife

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A World War Two servicewoman has received three medals recognising her wartime service as a special surprise on her 100th birthday.

Jacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday with her husband and family. Ref shs 30 18TI 8509. Picture: Terry IfeJacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday with her husband and family. Ref shs 30 18TI 8509. Picture: Terry Ife

Jacquelyn Gilliam celebrated the milestone on Sunday, July 22,with a party at Holmesley care home with friends and family.

She was born in 1918, the same year the Royal Air Force formed, and spent the war serving in the Women Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

Jacquelyn joined the Bournemouth Reserve in 1941 working as a radar operator. She was promoted in 1944 to air craft woman, then leading air craft woman. She was awarded a first class good conduct badge on her discharge from the service in 1945. Before the war, Jacquelyn was a photographic operator working in Hampstead.

Her son Christian contacted the Ministry of Defence, which sent an outline of her service record and the medals.

Jacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday. Ref shs 30 18TI 8512. Picture: Terry IfeJacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday. Ref shs 30 18TI 8512. Picture: Terry Ife

Grandmother-of-two Jacquelyn said: “I never thought I would be around to live to 100. I used to do a lot of walking.”

Jacquelyn lives in Holmesley with her husband of 69 years Bill, who she met in Trinidad and Tobago while she was convalescing following a horse riding accident.

The couple’s courtship continued when Bill popped the question after a dentist had accidently broken Jacquelyn’s jaw while removing a wisdom tooth.

Jacquelyn said: “I was lying in bed and he said ‘we’re getting married’ I couldn’t say anything.

Jacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday. Ref shs 30 18TI 8515. Picture: Terry IfeJacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday. Ref shs 30 18TI 8515. Picture: Terry Ife

“He’s my toy boy.”

Bill, 93, served as an air force pilot during the war, before working in Trinidad and a friend recommended staying in his future sister-in-law’s hotel.

He said: “As we spent time together we found we liked other things, we used to do a lot of swimming and walking. The dentist broke her jaw and I said ‘I suppose I better look after you and that we’re getting married.’

“A little joke I always tell people is that Jacquelyn and I first met during the war but not face to face, she was a radar operator and I was flying across the sea to Germany and she could pick up my plane and that was how we first met.”

Jacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday. Ref shs 30 18TI 8515. Picture: Terry IfeJacquie Gilliam celebrates her 100th birthday. Ref shs 30 18TI 8515. Picture: Terry Ife

The couple married on bonfire night in a church in Trinidad. They moved to Sidmouth after Bill retired after discovering it on holiday. They have two sons, and two grandchildren.

Her son Christian thanked the staff at Holmesley for organising the celebrations.

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