‘He says it’ll wait until he is 101’: Hero pilot delays 100th birthday celebrations
- Credit: Sent in by Pat French
A stoic Second World War pilot who turns 100 today is having to delay family celebrations due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Kenneth Booth, from Norwich, who has two children, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, who worked as an RAF photo reconnaissance pilot in north Africa, was hoping to mark his milestone birthday surrounded by family in a Norfolk holiday cottage.
Due to lockdown restrictions celebrations had to be cancelled but his daughter, Pat French, from near Aylsham, said: “Disappointingly his 100th birthday party has had to be cancelled. He just smiles and says it will have to wait until he is 101.
“Although his grandchildren and great grandchildren live in various countries around the world, they all try to keep in touch with him, and see him when back in the UK. He also loves to see them online when possible.”
She added: “Dad as a person is very stoical and strong-minded, still taking an interest in most things. He also can be witty, has a good sense of humour, is unassuming and still very independent.”
Mrs French, who is her 70s and used to work as an auxiliary nurse at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, said: “I long to hold him and give him a cuddle and a kiss.”
Mr Booth was born in Derby and was always fascinated by flying and in 1939 he went out as an RAF reservist with 203 Squadron to Egypt. He then flew with 680 Squadron across north Africa.
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Mr Booth flew low to take pictures of enemy locations, during which time he was shot down into the Mediterranean Sea in 1941.
For his efforts he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942.
Mrs French said: “I don’t think he had very sophisticated cameras and didn’t have very much in terms of radar.”
Mr Booth, who married his wife, Ivy, in 1945, helped close airfields around Britain from 1945-47, and then became a transport manager for Derby’s Rolls Royce factory. Mrs Booth died in 2017 aged 95.
The couple moved to Norwich in 1963 and Mr Booth spent his last few working years on the production line at Norwich’s former Rowntree-Mackintosh factory.
“Those were some of the happiest years for him,” Mrs French added.