Horsham 100-year-old celebrates in style - despite Covid

Covid restrictions limited the celebrations for Horsham man Cyril Robins on his 100th birthday.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 2:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 4:23 pm

But his family still managed to mark the milestone in style with a specially-baked cake and specially-commissioned jumper commemorating the time he served in the RAF during the Second World War.

Cyril was born in Ifield on March 1 1921 and was the eldest child of Sydney and Margaret Robins. Sydney worked as chauffeur to the Courage family, owners of the Courage Brewery.

As a child, Cyril proved to be an early entrepreneur by collecting bits of old bicycles, rebuilding them and selling them on to his mates.

Cyril Robins
Cyril Robins

After leaving Robinson Road school in Crawley in 1935, Cyril went to work at Stanfords garage, training as a mechanic.

Four years later the Courage family moved to Horsham and the Robins family moved with them, setting up home in Crawley Road. From there, Cyril cycled to Crawley and back for his job at the garage and was still there when war broke out.

He was called up in 1941, when he was 20, to join the RAF and was sent to Lincolnshire to do his ‘square bashing’, as he calls it, at a place called Cardington.

He was then transferred to RAF Syerston to complete his training and worked for fleet motor transport working on various vehicles that the RAF owned.

Cyril spent about a year there before moving to Boston and then later travelled by ship to India, through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal trying to avoid German submarines on the way.

The ship docked in Bombay and Cyril then had a two-day train ride to a transit camp in Calcutta, followed by a 150-mile lorry ride to Asansol, a Royal Airforce Base.

Subsequently he was transferred a further 100 plus miles over mostly dirt roads to a workshop in Jamshedpur where he spent the rest of the war working as a mechanic.

While in India he was reunited with his old pal Frank Urry and they spent a lot of time together with their other pal Mike Robinson.

Cyril returned to England in 1946 and docked in Liverpool. As he left the ship, he kissed the ground and said he would never leave Britain again.

He returned to his old job as a mechanic and once, while on a visit to his aunt and uncle in Staplefield, he met his future wife Irene Boxall, who he spotted in the garden next door.

They married on June 26 1948 in Staplefield Parish Church and their first home was two attic rooms in Albion Terrace.

They later moved to Bennetts Road where they brought up their four children until 1967 when they moved to Hornbeam Close, a brand-new development, where Cyril still lives.

During his married life Cyril worked driving buses and coaches for a few years and then went to work for Sussex and Dorking bricks, driving lorries. Later, he changed his job for more local deliveries and drove tankers for William Cory and Son until his retirement.

After retiring he worked delivering cars all over the country for Gilbert Rice, the Ford garage in the Bishopric. He also did odd jobs for his son Steve, who owned a builders merchants’s yard in Billingshurst.

Cyril never went abroad again but enjoyed many holidays in good old Blighty, as he called it. Family caravan holidays and in later years coach trips with Rene to Scotland, which they loved.

Cyril and Rene were married for 70 years just managing to celebrate their anniversary when sadly Rene passed away on July 8 2018.

During their life together they had four children, Stephen, Brenda, Edna, and Andrew. There followed 18 grandchildren, 30 great grandchildren, with two more on the way, and three great great grandchildren.

Apart from aeroplanes and cars Cyril loved steam trains and he loved the roads. Whereas many people might pick up a book to read a story or find some facts, Cyril loved browsing road atlases and finding out how the road system connected the country.

“It was his geography,” say his family. “He can still tell you how to get from one place to another without the use of any modern Satnav technology.”