Big family “natter” for Normandy veteran’s 90th

jpco-29-1-14 Eric Strange who has supported Crawley Town FC since 1953 has his 90th birthday (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco-29-1-14 Eric Strange who has supported Crawley Town FC since 1953 has his 90th birthday (Pic by Jon Rigby)

A great-grandfather celebrated his 90th birthday with a big family gathering at his home.

Eric and Doreen Strange, of Deerswood Road, West Green, were joined by family as young as four-months-old at their family home on Saturday (January 25).

Speaking before the event, Eric said: “Most of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be coming on Saturday.

“It will just be a free-for-all - eat if you want, drink if you want, and have a good natter.”

Eric, originally from Reading, met Doreen at one of the town’s social clubs when he was 18.

The young couple endured years apart after Eric joined the war effort in 1943.

He said: “You knew it was coming so you just had to face it and make the best of it.”

Eric was eventually demobilised from the Royal Navy in 1946 after he spent “another year of absence” in the Pacific.

On June 6, 1944, (D-Day) Eric commanded a landing craft at Normandy and until recently attended functions with Normandy Veterans.

Eric and Doreen got married while he was on leave that summer but could not have a proper honeymoon because he was still serving.

He said: “They were always indefinite leaves, anything from a couple of days to a couple of months.”

The family will celebrate Eric and Doreen’s 70th wedding anniversary in August.

Eric and Doreen moved to Crawley in 1952, when the new town was built.

He said: “We were really one of the pioneers I suppose coming to Crawley.”

Eric worked at Beric Press’s photographic department for many years.

He said: “I took up photography because my favourite love was chemistry and at work we had plenty to play with.”

Eric has supported Crawley Town FC and attended nearly every home game since 1953.

He said: “I always believe in following your home team.”

his favourite Crawley Town moment was their televised 2-1 cup win against Northampton in the early 70s.

Eric volunteered as a first aid trainer for St John Ambulance for the football club. He retired from the ambulance service in 1995 and was presented a clock by John Maggs, the club’s manager.

Eric said: “Teaching first aid was very very enjoyable and gave a lot of satisfaction.”

Eric and Doreen celebrated their golden wedding in Jersey.

On marriage, he said: “You’ve got to be tolerant, none of us are perfect so play down any problems.”