A Sussex Grange Care Home resident will celebrate his 103rd birthday with a fellow veteran whose life he saved during the Second World War.
Selsey man Reginald Hunt, known as Reg, met Petworth-based Michael De Burgh, 95, in North Africa in a prisoner of war camp during the conflict.
Karen Halford, registered manager at Sussex Grange in Selsey, said Reg, who was a tank driver, fought through the war from day one, and taught then schoolboy Michael the ropes in driving a tank.
She said: “When out on a manoeuvre on one occasion the tank very nearly tipped over. It was difficult to see the slopes from the level ground.”
When travelling through Italy to the River Po, Michael’s tank was ‘shot to smithereens’, Karen revealed.
She added: “Bullets showered the tank entering at all avenues, ricocheting all around the interior. Michael was shot out of the tank and up into the air. Reg spotted Michael and came around with his wren carrier — a vehicle used to collect the dead and wounded — and managed to get him to safety.
“Michael says if it were not for Reg he would most definitely not have survived.”
Karen said Reg managed to get through the war ‘practically unscathed’, except for one near miss.
“On one occasion he was in Allemagne and slightly injured,” Karen said.
“He lay still on the ground and pretended he was dead. The Germans left him there.”
According to Karen, the pair parted company at the end of the war, but were reunited after Michael discovered that Reg had settled in Selsey and was working for Prudential.
Karen said: “Another friend of theirs, Colonel Ripton, who is sadly no longer with us, and his wife Jane remained in touch and visits still continue for Reg, Michael and Jane where they meet at the care home.
“Reg is a wonderful man who is loved and respected by all who come into contact with him.
“He meets up with Michael at Sussex Grange on a regular occurrence and [they] share their news and reminisce on the days they spent together at war.
“They have us spellbound listening in awe of how their friendship has survived the years, [They are] both such an honour to know.”