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Great Barton-based RAF and USAF veteran celebrates 100th birthday





Family and friends of a 100-year-old World War Two veteran who served in the RAF and the US Air Force gathered together on Sunday to wish him happy birthday.

Eric Banks-Callaby turned 100 on September 12 and celebrated his birthday in style surrounded by loved ones for lunch at the Manger pub in Bradfield Combust.

The 100-year-old, who lives with his son in Great Barton, near Bury St Edmunds, was born in Ashley Heath in Newmarket in 1922. He moved around a lot during his childhood and changed schools often as his father was a gamekeeper.

Eric Banks-Callaby, of Great Barton, celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday with friends and family. Picture: Mecha Morton
Eric Banks-Callaby, of Great Barton, celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday with friends and family. Picture: Mecha Morton

When the war broke out in 1939, he did not hesitate to join the air force despite being under age at the time at just 17.

He said: “I was with a friend of mine on a Sunday morning and he said ‘what should we do? Should we go and join tomorrow?’ Which we did. We went to Cambridge to join up and when we got there they said ‘come back next year sonny when you’re old enough’. So we got on the train to Ipswich and when we arrived, we were a year older.

“After that I never saw my friend any more. He got posted to a different area completely.”

Mr Banks-Callaby was part of a spitfire crew and at the end of 1941, he was offered the opportunity to serve in the Indian Air Force for a better promotion.

“I was in Scotland on a gunnery course and I got rather friendly with a squadron leader’s daughter, of course that was frowned upon,” he said.

“I always say that’s how I got posted to India because her father was my squadron leader.”

After being invalided and discharged from the air force, he joined the USAF as they were looking for personnel. He married in 1952 after a whirlwind romance and had two sons.

Mr Banks-Callaby had also spent some time as a policeman for West Suffolk which he said he didn’t enjoy too much.

After his job with the police, he decided to be self-employed and worked as a building surveyor and property developer for many years until he retired.

For Mr Banks-Callaby, the secret to a long life is calmness, getting on with things and keeping busy. He said he doesn’t give his age much thought.

“I don’t feel any different. I feel the same as I did 20 or 30 years ago.”