Melton man celebrates turning 100 with memories of steam trains and wartime

Leslie Posnett shows off the card he received from The Queen to mark his 100th birthday EMN-200601-185337001
Leslie Posnett shows off the card he received from The Queen to mark his 100th birthday EMN-200601-185337001
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He vividly remembers travelling on steam trains from his Frisby home to go to school in Melton.

His memories also contain clear recollections of his service in the Second World War, repairing airfield runways during the Battle of Britain before helping the Allies advance into Germany.

Leslie P:osnett pictured in 1941 when he served in the Second World War with the Royal Engineers EMN-200601-185348001

Leslie P:osnett pictured in 1941 when he served in the Second World War with the Royal Engineers EMN-200601-185348001

And Leslie Posnett has now received a special card from The Queen in celebration of his 100th birthday.

He has led quite a life and is now enjoying living at the Gretton Court residential home in Melton.

After enjoying a party with family and friends and another with fellow residents, he considered why he had lived so long: “I suppose I’ve never drunk alcohol or smoked and I’ve lived a very mixed life with lots of different interests.”

Born on December 27, 1919, just a year after the end of The Great War, Leslie grew up in Frisby with a brother and a sister - his father, Fred, was a painter and decorator and worked on the maintenance team at Holwell Works while his mother, Mabel, was a tailoress making dresses at a Leicester shop before having her children.

Leslie Posnett cuts his Scrabble-themed 100th birthday cake at a party at Gretton Court EMN-200601-185358001

Leslie Posnett cuts his Scrabble-themed 100th birthday cake at a party at Gretton Court EMN-200601-185358001

“I attended the village school and then went to the boys’ school in Melton, which is now Brownlow School, when I was 11,” he recalled.

“I caught a steam train every morning at 8.20 - the trains were very good in those days and most villages had a station.

“We used slates back then to write on in class. You had a pencil and scratched the answers on your slate.”

He remembers Melton as a very different place during the 1920s and 1930s: “There were strings of horses being exercised in the town, either from the Remount Depot or the local hunts.

“There were numerous horses everywhere and the sheep used to be driven through the town centre on market days.”

Leslie left school at 14 and became an apprentice joiner with Boulton and Paul before working for town builder, Denman’s, on housebuilding.

But after the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered to join the Royal Engineers shortly before his 20th birthday, working initially on arfield construction work in northern France.

“A month after joining up we were in our uniforms and on a boat out to France,” he said.

“I wanted to do my bit because my father had served in the First World War with military bands in France.

“It wasn’t long before the Germans staged a big attack and we were posted back to England.”

As the Luftwaffe began its offensive on Britain in 1940, Leslie and his colleagues were carrying out important work on airfields in the south of England repairing and maintaining runways.

He watched dogfights in the skies above him as Spitfires and Hurricanes locked horns with Hitler’s fighter planes.

“We didn’t know which way it was all going to go at that stage and it was touch and go,” recalled Leslie.

“The worst part was seeing the planes taking off and then seeing some coming back with problems and often with two or three aircraft missing.”

He was posted to Algeria in 1942 and as a member of the 1st Army he joined up with General Montgomery’s 8th Army during the push through Africa.

While he was there, Leslie got the devastating news that his brother, Hedley, had been killed while serving in Tunisia - his Red Cross truck had taken a direct hit.

He also served in Siciliy and on mainland Italy, when he got the ‘posting of a lifetime’ as part of the garrison engineers battalion in Rome.

Leslie, who was billeted near Hamburg when the war ended, got married within a couple of months of returning home.

He had met Peggy before the war when they both attended services at Melton’s Sage Cross Methodist Church but had not seen her or members of his family for three years.

The couple, who sadly lost two babies, had two daughters - Christine (69), who lives in Canada, and Jacqueline (57), a Cambridgeshire resident.

After the war, Leslie worked as a maintenance foreman at Pera in Nottingham Road and later in life enjoyed painting as a hobby.

Peggy passed away six months after the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

Now he enjoys regular games of Scrabble and chatting to fellow residents, including one who is even two years older than him, as well as attending weekly services at Sage Cross.

Leslie, who also has two grandchildren added: “I feel very fortunate that I was able to enjoy 70 years of marriage and that I have lived to be 100.”