Celebrations as Westgate’s Fred May marks 100th birthday

Fred May celebrates his 100th birthday

By Jessica Roberts (Lead Activities Coordinator at The Westgate Care Centre)

Celebrations will be held at The West Gate Care Centre in Westgate today (July 2) to mark the 100th birthday of resident Fred May.

Born in Rye Lane, Peckham, Fred’s early years were marked by loss and hardship. Orphaned at the tender age of eight, he found solace and support with his grandmother, who owned a café in Gravesend. This nurturing environment was home until she passed away in 1938, when Fred was just 14 years old.

Determined to forge his own path, Fred joined the Merchant Navy shortly after his grandmother’s death. His naval journey took him to Scotland and beyond, leading him into the throes of World War II. Fred’s bravery shone brightly during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940, a monumental operation that saved countless lives. His contributions were significant enough to catch the attention of the BBC, who interviewed him about his experiences.

Fred’s naval career also included a unique mission involving the Maunsell Forts. He was part of the team that towed these forts from Gravesend to their positions in the Thames Estuary, where they still stand as silent sentinels.

In 1948, Fred married Audrey, with whom he shared over five decades of love and companionship until her passing in 2000. Their family grew in 1968 with the adoption of their son, Trevor.

Fred’s family history is as intriguing as his own. His mother was the head cashier at the Crystal Palace, a historic venue that tragically burned down in 1936. His father was a dedicated oil tanker owner-driver, contributing to the essential wartime supply chain.

In 2010, Fred broke a 70-year silence about his wartime experiences, giving an emotional interview in a local paper. He spoke about the determination of young sailors like himself to join the rescue efforts during wartime, inadvertently finding himself part of the largest troop evacuation in history.

Since May 2023, Fred has been a cherished resident of The Westgate Care Centre in Westgate. His infectious charisma and joyful spirit have made him a beloved figure among staff and fellow residents alike. Known for his lively presence, Fred never misses a chance to dance whenever there’s a singer, demonstrating that he still has the moves even at 100 years young.

As Fred May reaches this incredible milestone, staff at The Westgate Care Centre are privileged to celebrate his 100th birthday alongside his son, Trevor. His life story is a testament to courage, resilience, and the enduring power of a positive spirit. Here’s to a very special centennial celebration for a truly extraordinary man.

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