‘My long life is attributable to island life on Guernsey’

A LIFE of excitement, loyalty and love will be celebrated today as Basil Metcalfe-Elgee turns 100.

Born in Eaglescliffe in the north-east of England in 1920, Mr Metcalfe-Elgee began life after school age in 1938 as a steel rolling mill manager before joining the RAF. He had been exempt from serving because his job was classed as a ‘reserved occupation’ and important to the country. However, he decided to join up after seeing so many he knew do the same.

‘Three of my best friends, not being in a reserved occupation, had been called up for service,’ he said.

‘Me and my younger brother, who was also in a similar career as me, decided to volunteer for active service and we were both accepted, my brother for the Fleet Air Arm as a future pilot and myself to the RAF in London.’

Mr Metcalfe-Elgee was then sent to Brighton in early 1943, staying at the RAF-requisitioned Grand Hotel, the same hotel bombed by the IRA in 1984.

Mr Metcalfe-Elgee, right, with his RAF crew, Wireless Operator Warrant Officer McKenzie, left, and Navigator P/O Thomas pictured in front of a Dakota. (28907375)

After being taught Morse code, drill, clay pigeon shooting and learning to fly Tiger Moth aircraft, Catalina flying boats and the N2S-3 Stearman Kaydet, he spent time in America and Canada before flying out to the Far East.

He flew in the East Indies after the war to oppose the insurgents who had been armed by the retreating Japanese forces to continue the fight against the colonialists, in this case the Dutch.

This involved flying Gurkha forces into the heart of the fighting, slowing enough to allow them to jump off the plane and then taking off straight afterwards.

In peacetime he returned to the north-east and worked at a firm of architects and surveyors, where he became a partner, and married Thelma, who died in 1980.

Basil Metcalfe-Elgee flying as Captain in Dakota aircraft during Indonesian uprising after Japanese Surrender. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 28907372)

Later he met Joan, a fellow keen golfer who led the ladies’ team, and they decided to make a new start after visiting her brother in Guernsey and liking it so much that they came to live here.

He said he had lived a full life and was excited to celebrate his 100th year milestone with his friends and family with a meal and party at the Royal Guernsey Golf Club.

‘My long life is attributable to island life on Guernsey,’ he said.

‘We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, but the fresh air, sun and a lot of friendly people, it’s secure, and we’re very lucky, especially now.’

He said, unfortunately, some family members could not come to the island because of Covid, including his son and three grandchildren, but would keep in touch with via Skype.

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