Former police officer and war veteran Eric Woodsford celebrates his 105th birthday in New Milton
FORMER police officer Eric Woodsford, who served on the Arctic convoys in the Second World War, celebrated his 105th birthday on Saturday.
Several generations helped mark Eric’s milestone at the home in New Milton he has shared with son Brian and daughter-in-law Elli since 2005.
He was delighted to receive his second birthday card from the Queen and a cake modelled on his old police helmet.
“It was almost overwhelming,” he said. “All the family were here.”
Asked for the secret to his longevity, Eric joked: “Porridge for breakfast always made with water and no sugar!”
He has four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren; and recently became a great-great-grandfather.
Brian said: “He doesn’t make any concessions to his age. You hear him cursing sometimes when he’s trying to dress, but he refuses help as he has to do it himself.”
Born in Bournemouth to parents Margaret and Ernest Woodsford in 1916, Eric grew up in the Winton area where his father was serving with the police force.
During the Depression of the early 1930s, they moved to Netley Abbey, where Ernest was local sergeant.
Eric followed in his father’s footsteps but when he joined the force following a short stint working as a clerk for Anglo American Oil.
Having started at Winchester headquarters in May 1939, it was not long before he left, volunteering to join the navy for the war.
Eric was stationed on HMS Berwick as part of the Arctic convoys travelling across the North Atlantic delivering food, supplies and arms to the Soviet Union.
He also served on hospital ship Isle of Jersey and, immediately after the war, was part of HMS Ajax’s flag-waving tour to South America.
His convoys service was recognised at the time with a number of medals from the Soviet Union.
Further recognition came about five years ago when a representative from the Russian Embassy in London presented him with the Ushakov medal.
Previously reserved for Soviet military personnel, President Vladimir Putin ruled it could also be awarded to those serving in other militaries who assisted in the conflict.
Shortly afterwards, Eric was also proud to receive a British medal in the shape of a star.
It was in 1940 during the war when Eric married Mary O’Shea, a nurse whom he met when she was working at Southampton’s Royal South Hants Hospital.
The wedding took place at the Royal Victoria Hospital’s chapel – the only part of the Netley building still existing today.
Mary served as a midwife and was working in London during the Blitz.
Following the completion of Eric’s tour on HMS Ajax, the couple moved to Andover, where he rejoined the police.
Their only son, Brian, was born in 1950, and they moved to Winchester shortly afterwards. Mary died aged just 57 in 1972.
Eric served as sergeant in Ringwood, inspector in Petersfield and chief inspector in Bitterne before retiring at the end of a 35-year career.Apart from the usual duties expected of a serving officer, he and his colleagues found themselves having to provide extra assistance to their Winchester chief constable.
This included rounding up his donkeys after they were regularly released by a recruit, and tracking down lost model aeroplanes he built.
Brian’s wife Elli told the A&T: “I joked that was the only detective work he did – finding those model aeroplanes!”