Patient turns 100 years old on ward 24

Posted on Tue, 12/11/2013

William Henry Lorraine - 100 years old – born on the 25th October 1913

William Henry Lorraine turned 100 years old on ward 24 at the QE Hospital in Gateshead on Friday 25th October.

A huge milestone for the centenarian who describes himself as just a typical Gateshead lad.

William who was a book binder by trade, was born in Gateshead and has lived here all his life bar a brief spell in Reading during the 1930s. He said: “I’ve lived in Gateshead all my life apart from six years during the thirties when I lived in Reading. It was the depression and there was just no work up here of any sort. I can remember the Jarrow march, it was an awful time. I went down to Reading as a labourer but I managed to find work as a book binder, it was the start of a long education for myself.”

Bill is in hospital with leg problems after struggling to walk, but was hoping to be discharged on his birthday, he said: “I’m in and out of hospital quite a lot these days, it’s par for the course at my age. The QE is a fantastic hospital, but I miss my little electric fire and my own house.”

Bill has lived on his own, at home after his wife Christiana died 37 years ago. He has one son, 74 year old William Henry Lorraine, two grandkids David Mark and XXX and one great grandson.

Most centenarians look forward to receiving their telegram from the Queen for reaching such a milestone birthday but Bill wasn’t so keen. He said: “The Queen’s representatives came to offer me the telegram but I didn’t want one so I sent them away. As far as I’m concerned the Queen is just like Mrs Brown next door, no different to me, I don’t have much time for royalty. Anybody who went through the depression is likely to feel the same. The whole country was starving, people in Gateshead were dying, and they never paid a penny to help. They just stand and wave at people.”

“In the thirties, it was no life at all for the poor, they had NOTHING. When I was 14 old couples on my street had £1 to live on. That was for everything, food, rent, clothes, healthcare, there was no NHS. If you weren’t able to pay your rent or your bills, you were sent off to the workhouse.”

Bill served six years in the army during the second world war as a Royal Tank Commander, he said: “I read morse code, and you couldn’t send any messages without it, it was very important. I mainly served my time over in Germany, Holland, Belgium. A lot of the time our job was pushing back the frontline, so attacking where we had no stronghold. Landing on foreign soil in boats was terrible. The keels of our big boats were too low for the shallow water so we had to go out in small boats, firing right onto the beaches. In one battle we lost 1500 men in half an hour. I’m talking about 18 and 19 year olds. It was your job to just keep going and take over from those who couldn’t. They’d fire guns until they couldn’t do it any more, then you took over.”

“I saw some terrible things in the war, when we shelled the German dug outs they had five men to each of their large weapons. After shelling one particular dug out, we went to make sure it was clear, and we found the five young German soldiers manning their gun, still in position but dead.”

“The German soldiers were very strong, they were frightening. Because we were pushing back the front line I saw a lot of ground combat. They were like robots, incredibly well trained and strong, one of them was worth ten men. The soldiers from Belgium were not and often ran away rather than fighting.”

The UK that Bill came back to was very different, the NH S didn’t exist when he went off to war. He said: “It was fantastic. Especially as I remembered the way people had suffered so badly in the depression. Everyone was entitled to healthcare not just those with money. I remember everyone getting their false teeth and glasses, it was brilliant for the poor.”

“Unfortunately, the working class man often destroys his own opportunities. There were lots of people who got their glasses and false teeth and then sold them and went back for more. It was pure greed, taking it away from the deserving poor who needed it most.”

After the NHS, Bill thinks the biggest change in Britain over his lifetime has been living standards. He added: “Wages have got better, conditions at work are better because of the unions. Everything’s improved, and it wasn’t the government, it was the unions. The working man was becoming more intelligent, more educated. All he could do before was strike a match to light a tab, now he was thinking for himself, educating himself.”

Bill credits his advanced years with not smoking, and proper meals made by his grandmother when he was younger: “I don’t smoke, I was brought up eating proper food by my grandmother which I’ve continued to do. It wasn’t anything fancy, but proper food like meat and veg. Now people just seem to live on cake, even though there is an increased knowledge about food.”

When asked what he sees for his future, he laughs: “Nothing, I’m 100! I would be happy to just go to bed and sleep!”


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