Celebrations as Cowfold war veteran turns 90

JPCT 290714 S143111821x Bill Harvey's 90th birthday. Cowfold -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140729-130412001
JPCT 290714 S143111821x Bill Harvey's 90th birthday. Cowfold -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140729-130412001

A Second World War veteran, family man and well-known figure in his village celebrated his 90th birthday on Wednesday (July 30.

‘Fresh air, keep working and enjoy life’ are the vital ingredients to a long and happy life, according to Bill Harvey, who lives in Henfield Road, Cowfold.

The pensioner celebrated the milestone birthday with a party attended by family, friends and neighbours at his local pub, the Hare and Hounds, on Saturday (July 26).

Bill, who has lived in Cowfold all his life, is one of 11 children.

He fought in Burma during the Second World War.

One of his brothers, who was serving in the Royal Air Force, died in the war.

After the war, Bill returned home to marry Queenie.

He said of the war: “It was terrible. The bullets went over the top of my head.

“My brother was in the air force so I thought I would join in.”

Bill and Queenie - who he said he would not marry prior to wartime in case he died in battle - had two sons, Michael and David.

However, tragedy struck the family in 1968 when Michael drowned at West Wittering beach, aged just 19, while attempting to save a woman who was struggling in the water.

He passed away along with two other young men,his friends Brian Fairs and George Stevens.

Bill said: “It brings you to tears sometimes.”

Residents of Cowfold rallied together after the death of the three men and helped to build a swimming pool in the village as a memorial for the boys.

The pool has since been used to teach generations of Cowfold youngsters to swim.

Bill acknowledged the swimming pool was a good legacy for Michael and his friends. He said: “They have kept it going which is good.”

Bill spent more than 40 years working on farms in the local area.

He said family is very important to him and that he enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

His 90th birthday party was held at the pub where Bill said he has been attending regularly since his father first took him aged just 14.

He said: “All my family and friends came, and ones I knew when I went to school. They filled it up. It was lovely.”

And Bill’s secrets to longevity are very simple, he said.

He said: “Fresh air, keep working and enjoy life.

“Make sure you keep smiling.

“I do all the gardening and like going to the pub down the road.”

His daughter-in-law Lindsey Harvey said: “Bill is always jolly and a very well-known character in the village.”