A FORMER soldier who fought in Dunkirk in Second World War celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday.

Surrounded by family and friends, war veteran John Larrett showed off his card from the Queen placed on a mantlepiece next to photos of his children and a large black and white picture of him and his fellow soldiers from the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

He retold stories about the time that he spent in Dunkirk with great pride.

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Born in London, Mr Larrett moved to Abingdon as a child and was sent to fight in the Second World War at 19.

While Margaret, Mr Larrett’s eldest daughter, said that his memory is not what it used to be, his tales of the battle in Dunkirk seemed sharp and vivid.

Oxford Mail:

The soldier was shot in his left arm first but continued to fight until a piece of shrapnel ripped his right leg during an explosion.

He then spent four days and five nights laying on the beach in Normandy, waiting to die.

Mr Larrett remembers there was one soldier giving medical assistance to the injured but there were too many bodies.

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Once the boats arrived to evacuate the soldiers, he was instantly taken to a hospital where he spent months recovering.

The veteran remembers it took doctors three weeks to remove the bullet stuck in his arm.

Once his wounds healed, he was shipped back to the war where he spent the next few years until its end in 1945.

Oxford Mail:

“I was a bit naughty and didn’t want to go back but they sent me anyway”, Mr Larrett recalled, laughing.

After the war, he returned to Abingdon where he worked at the MG car plant for the next 30 years.

He married Phelice Mary, who he met when he was 18.

His eldest daughter described their marriage as ‘happy, even in hardships’.

She said her parents worked very hard to provide for her and her four siblings, with her father taking on a second job as a cobbler at a Wootton workshop, a trade he learnt from his father.

The couple were inseparable until Mrs Larrett’s death at age 66, after she suffered heavy bronchitis.

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While he retold stories about the time he spent in Dunkirk with great pleasure, he joyously boasted about all the family members who had travelled to Abingdon to surprise him.

Mr Larret’s five children – Margaret, 79, Anne, 77, John, 75, Julia, 73, and Robert, 70 – were joined by 15 grandchildren and more than 20 great-grandchildren.

The five children all recalled a happy childhood and laughed over a memory of their father who injured himself while attempting to drive up the stairs at their home on a motorbike.

The veteran, who was born in Bethnal Green, London, moved to Oxfordshire early in his childhood where he attended school.

Now, he lives in Nicholson House – a care home in Abingdon – where he settled in 15 years ago.

Linda Chrystal, one of the workers there who helped organise his birthday party, described Mr Larrett as ‘a lovely gentlemen’.