Page last updated at 18:10 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 19:10 UK

Surprise for 105-year-old veteran

Edwin Cooper with his great granddaughter
Edwin Cooper with his great granddaughter, Sig Natasha Allonby, from 16 Signal Regiment based in Germany

The Territorial Army (TA) has held a surprise party to celebrate the 105th birthday of its oldest member.

Edwin Cooper, of Abergele, Conwy, signed up to the TA's Field Army Ambulance Unit in 1924, aged 20.

Volunteers from 203 Field Hospital squadron visited him in a military ambulance, and presented a cake bearing the Royal Army Medical Corps crest.

His family said he has two ambitions left - to meet the Queen, and reach the summit of Snowdon.

Major Eirian Davies, commanding officer of 203 Field Hospital (Volunteers) and Regimental Sergeant Major Paul Stansfield delivered the cake to the Dol Awel residential home with other members of the unit.

Mr Cooper was also surrounded by his family and received birthday cards from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Queen.

Edwin Cooper with his cake
His cake was decorated with the Royal Army Medical Corps crest

Mr Cooper, who served in north Africa and Italy, said it had been a "smashing day" and it had been a "nice surprise" to receive the cake from the TA.

He said: "I never thought anything about it, but it's a really nice surprise that they remembered."

Mr Cooper said he joined the TA because he "just wanted something to do" and to "harden" himself up a bit.

Asked the key to living to a ripe old age, he said: "There's no secret about it. People try to live a long time but they can't do it, it's just your luck.

"My brother died on his 60th birthday and I said 'Don't worry lad I will make up for you'. I said 'I will live along time for you and me both,' and I haven't finished yet. I will be here for a bit."

Maj Davies said: "Myself and my commanding officer thought we would give him a birthday cake as a gift and a plaque from the unit 203.

He had a hard childhood, but he has a marvellous sense of humour
Susan Allonby, stepdaughter

"We all go out an do things but his medals really do mean something for what he did out in the Second World War. We don't forget what they did and what they sacrificed at the time."

She said although a lot had changed in the TA over the years, the "feeling of family and camaraderie" remained the same, adding: "I think the soldier is always a soldier whether you're 105 or 25."

Mr Cooper followed in his stepfather's footsteps when he joined the TA.

After completing basic training, he joined the Field Army Ambulance Unit in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment.

The former lance corporal, originally from Manchester, was called up for operational service on the day war broke out in 1939.

Edwin Cooper when younger
Mr Cooper joined the TA's Field Army Ambulance Unit in 1924

Mr Cooper's stepdaughter, Susan Allonby, 62, said: "He is a wonderful man.

"He had a hard childhood, but he has a marvellous sense of humour.

"He's happy - his motto is 'Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone'."

She added: "He doesn't talk about the treatment he gave to wounded soldiers because it makes him cry."

Mr Cooper's main ambition is to reach the summit of Snowdon, after failing to make it to the top when he was 92.

His stepdaughter said the family now hoped to take him to the top somehow.

She added: "He only has two ambitions left - to meet the Queen, whom he calls Elizabeth, and to reach the top of Snowdon.

A card sent by Gordon Brown
The prime minister sent a birthday card

"In 1996, he only had his step-grandson Michael with him on the mountain.

"It was frustrating for Edwin because he went up on the train to a short distance from the top, but Michael couldn't push him up the rest of the way. He made us promise to go again."

Mr Cooper is a football fan and his stepdaughter regularly reads him the history of Manchester United 1875-2006 when she visits the home.

He also has one surviving daughter, two grandchildren and five step-grandchildren.



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