Kettering veteran and former Japanese prisoner of war celebrates 100th birthday

A former prisoner of war was surrounded by family and friends as he celebrated his 100th birthday at Cranford Village Hall.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 11:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 11:42 am
Cliff was surrounded by family and friends at the party, held in Cranford Village Hall
Cliff was surrounded by family and friends at the party, held in Cranford Village Hall

Cliff Burgess, who is from Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire but now lives in Kettering with his daughter, Mandy Taylor, turned 100-years-old yesterday (Tuesday).

Cliff is a veteran and former prisoner of war who served in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War as a gunner and he was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in 1942 and forced to work on the Thai-Burma railway.

Cliff marked his milestone 100th birthday yesterday with a lively party surrounded by his family and friends.

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Cliff Burgess celebrated his 100th birthday on Tuesday

The centenarian arrived fashionably late and walked into the hall to the music of his favourite TV shows, Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses, cheered by his family and friends who sang For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.

Cliff's grandson Robert Weaving said: "It's a massive, massive milestone.

"We've been counting it down for the last 20 years, we always knew he would get here.

"Grandad likes a bet and about a year ago he asked about the odds on reaching 107 - that's what he thinks he will get to!"

Cliff, with his daughters Mandy and Sandra

Cliff's grandson David said his grandad enjoys a bet nearly everyday.

David said: "He'll put a bet on every day, only 50p or 20p. When they closed the local bookies we had to set him up an online account."

Cliff still insists on getting his newspaper, and goes to buy the Daily Express himself.

He was joined by his two daughters, Mandy and Sandra, and his seven grandchildren, David, Mathew, Robert, Estelle, Katy, Rebecca, and Tracey.

Cliff had a massive cake to mark his milestone birthday

Cliff's nine great-grandchildren are Lauren, Lewis, Lola, Louis, Ruby, Sydney, Rocco, Molly, and Alfie.

His first great-great-grandchild, one-month-old Freddie Cliff, was named after the patriarch. Great-grandchild Alfie also has the middle name Cliff and his cousin Molly Doris is named after Cliff's late wife, Doris.

Cliff had received a birthday card from the Queen and was treated to a massive birthday cake in the shape of '100'.

Cliff's 100 years cover some major moments in history and he served in the Second World War.

Cliff was a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was captured by the Japanese in 1942 after the fall of Singapore

He was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore and was forced to work on the notorious Thai-Burma railway, which is also known as the death railway because so many men died while working on it.

Cliff went back to Burma in 2013 for the first time since the war on a trip organised by the National Far East Prisoner of War Fellowship Welfare and Remembrance Association and funded by a donation from the National Lottery.

Cliff told the Mirror before the trip that it would be the first time he had seen the graves of his former comrades and said: "It's something I wanted to do while I was still able to do it.

"Without the grant, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it so I’m very grateful.

"A lot of my mates who survived would have liked to go but they are no longer here to do it."

Cliff's grandson, David, said he didn't speak much about the war but added: "He won’t eat rice, he hates rice.

Cliff with all his family and friends

"He still has the same bible.

"Every Christmas I used to come up here and I used to share a bed with him and every night he always said the Lord’s Prayer twice."

Following the war Cliff married Doris, who passed away three years ago.

Cliff and Doris' daughter, Sandra Bryson-Hill, said her mum had also served in the war.

Sandra said: "She was in the army in WRAC, she saw active service as well - stopping the planes, the enemy planes, as they came in.

"They only made one mistake through the whole of the war. She was with Winston Churchill’s daughter in her regiment."

The chaplain of the Far East Prisoners of War, Pauline Simpson, attended the party and said grace.

Pauline said: "I run an association that provides welfare for those former prisoners of war. If they need any help in later life, like if they go into a nursing home or hospital, some welfare contributions can be arranged."

She also runs reunions for veterans and remembrance and commemoration events. Pauline will be organising a ceremony in London for August 15, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan Day (VJ Day), marking the end of the war in the Far East.

Pauline said a service will be held in St Martin in the Field Church, London, and she hopes former Far East prisoners of war, like Cliff, will be able to attend.

The family celebrated in style with fizz and sparklers
Cliff with his great-granddaughter, Lola, and her son, Freddie, Cliff's first great-great-grandchild.
Cliff with his great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchild, baby Freddie.
Cliff received a card from the Queen to mark his 100th birthday