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'Be sure of yourself and have confidence'

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: March 06, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

From left, Cheddleton Parish Council chairman Councillor John Tunna, Ralph Flemming and Irene Flemming.

From left, Cheddleton Parish Council chairman Councillor John Tunna, Ralph Flemming and Irene Flemming.

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AN RAF veteran who served in the Second World War has turned 100.

Ralph Flemming, who lives next to Cheddleton Flint Mill in Cheddleton with his wife Irene, is celebrating today with an open house party and buffet.

Mr Flemming served as an engineer in the 99 Squadron Bomber Command during the Second World War.

He was conscripted the day after the war broke out and served with the RAF for six-and-a-half years, before joining the Joshua Wardle dye works, where he worked until he retired.

He then volunteered at the flint mill by opening up every day and showing visitors round.

He said: "I was on a satellite base in Newmarket, living under a grandstand with rats and cats and God knows what.

"When I was young and Hitler was knocking about, we knew what was coming and what we were in for.

"I can still remember many things that happened in Newmarket, crashes and everything.

"We enjoyed life and went dancing, although I wasn't a very good dancer."

Ralph met his wife Irene before he signed up and they were married in 1942 and had one daughter, Ann.

They now have two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Despite the open house buffet, Mr Flemming will be commemorating his 100th birthday in the most relaxed and fuss-free way possible.

He said: "I'll be sitting in my chair and going to sleep; I'm glad you're only 100 once."

Speaking about what the secret is to his long life, Mr Flemming added: "Keep breathing.

"I can't really put it down to anything as such. It's just luck, and having a laugh as well.

"I eat porridge every morning, and have done since I was little. I stopped smoking when I was 50 and never drank heavily."

Despite reaching a century, there is no signs of stopping for Ralph, who only handed his driving licence back two years ago – which he insists is due to arthritis in his hip and not getting two speeding tickets.

He explained: "I'd been driving since I was 17 and I'd never made a claim, or got a fine, or anything until I was 91, when I got the first speeding ticket and it was entirely my own fault.

"When I got the second one I was 96 and I was on my way home.

"There was a lorry tailgating me and I needed to get ahead of it before turning into the mill junction, because I thought he'd go into the back of my car otherwise.

"That's when I went through the speed camera and it got me.

"I only handed my licence back because I have arthritis in my hip, and it got to the point I couldn't get in and out of the car."

When asked if he had any pearls of wisdom to impart to the younger generation, Mr Flemming said: "Be sure of yourself and be confident.

"When I was in the forces I found out that I was as good as anyone else.

"Some fellows came along who I joined up with and they'd gone to this school and that school and done all sorts of things.

"But when it came to it you could either do your job or not, and I could do my job just as good as anyone.

"When you get older you find that when you can't do things any more, you don't want to do them.

"When you're young it's like there's a hill there and you want to climb it.

"But when you can't do it, you realise you've got all you want.

"I've had a good life. It's soon gone; it doesn't feel like 100 years."

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