A VETERAN who was awarded the highest French merit for his service in the RAF has celebrated his 100th birthday.
Ronald Knight, who lives at Highcliffe Nursing Home in Stuart Road, was visited by family for a socially-distanced gathering on 19th June. Other members of the family joined in the celebrations virtually, via FaceTime.
The father-of-three, who has nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, was born in Sheffield but after meeting and marrying future wife Ethel in 1945 the pair moved to Christchurch.
When war was declared in September 1939, Ron – by now a qualified mechanic – volunteered for the RAF. Following training at RAF Cranwell he boarded the cruiser HMS Kenya, which departed from Liverpool bound for Malta.
He was stationed at Luga airfield where German Stuka diver bombers would attack in waves. One raid left him buried alive for 24 hours, and after being dug out by hand he had to go straight back to work.
Because of food shortages on Malta, he weighed seven-and-a-half stone when he left the island in 1943.
After D-Day in 1944 he was assigned to the Second Tactical Air Force in France, Belgium, Holland. Ending the war in Hamburg, Ron received various medals for his service including the French and Germany Star, the Africa Star, the 1939-45 Star, the Defence Medal, the 39-45 Medal, The Malta Medal and later The Legion d’Honneur – the highest French merit.
Ethel, who was known as Seth, had also been de-mobbed from the Royal Corps of Signals where she had been a wireless operator intercepting coded German messages.
Their first son John was born in 1947, followed by daughter Janet and second son Tony. Ron took a job with the Post Office Telecommunications and later moved to the planning department, installing new phone systems on housing estates and factory sites.
He later developed a taste for building work and for years after retirement he worked with his son Tony on various projects. Sadly, Ethel passed away in 2017, aged 94.
Tony told the A&T: “My father thinks it is amazing to be 100 and surviving lockdown. He is a quiet man, very clever and knows a lot about everything.
“He thinks deeply about all sorts of subjects and has worked hard all of his life, with Seth, to support his family.”