When 99-year-old D-Day veteran Stan Richardson was getting ready for a meeting of Littlehampton Probus Club yesterday, he had no idea what surprises his son Stuart had in store for him.
Dressed in his uniform and medals, the naval veteran arrived at the meeting to find a life-sized cut-out of his 16-year-old self.
Stan, who will celebrate his 100th birthday in October, was featured as the guest of honour for a special D-Day commemorative meeting of the club on the 75th anniversary.
Stan said: “I woke up this morning and had no idea anything was going on except I was coming to Roger’s for lunch. I have got a wonderful crowd around me. This is probably the best meeting we have ever had.”
He joined the Royal Navy at 16 and served on HMS Illustrious and HMS Nelson, which supported the D-Day effort on June 6, 1944.
On D-Day, Stan was servicing an aircraft flying from Lee-on-Solent. He said: “We didn’t realise what was going on, it was just another day doing our job.”
In a speech to the gathering, Stan talked about his time in the forces and his travels all over the world, including Africa and Sri Lanka.
Stan said: “I know I am an old guy at the moment but I was not back then. There was a lot of exciting things happening back then.
“They were good times, tough times, we had some awful things occur but we survived and that is why I am here today.”
Another big surprise came when Stuart, Stan’s only son, made a short speech to the group about his life and the life of his father.
He described the early years of his own life, living with Stan and his wife Muriel, who set up a hairdressing business from their front room in Stockport near Manchester.
Stuart then revealed Stan would be part of a large D-Day 75 event talking place at HMS Daedalus in Lee-on-Solent on Saturday, June 8.
HMS Daedalus was the busiest allied airfield in the UK on D-Day with more than 400 missions flown over Normandy.
Stan will help to unveil a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion with Fareham mayor Pamela Bryant.
At the end of Thursday’s gathering, Stan said he was blown away that his family and friends had planned the surprise and kept it under wraps.
He said: “I did my travelling across the world and settled here, you meet some nice people, I don’t know any nasty people here.”