A SECOND World War veteran who served in the Royal Navy for 24 years will celebrate his 100th birthday next week.

Highly respected and much-loved in his community, Douglas Sayles will mark his centenary surrounded by his fellow villagers in Heighington, seeing in a remarkable 100 years.

Mr Sayles, who was born July 21 in Darfield near Sheffield in 1919, signed up to the Royal Navy at the age of 17.

For his naval training, he was sent to HMS Drake at Devonport however, after one month, he was rushed into hospital with appendicitis and given light duties for three months.

While he was on sick leave Mr Sayles's fellow recruits graduated and were posted to HMS Glorious, a ship with a crew of 1,559 seamen.

The ship was tragically sunk by two German cruisers during the Battle of Norway with only 40 men survivors.

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Had Mr Sayles not been consigned to the sick bed he would have likely been on that ship.

While still learning his trade, Mr Sayles made a name for himself in boxing and marathon running, winning the Welterweight championship in 1938.

When the Second World War broke out Mr Sayles was sailing in the Mediterranean.

He was sailing on the HMS Imperial in Crete, picking up Jewish immigrants, when news came through that Britain was at war with Germany.

Orders were received to return to England via Malta and Gibraltar and instructions given to hunt down any German submarines on the way home.

Once into Plymouth, the crew took up mine sweeping in the North Sea before becoming part of the Atlantic convoys sailing to Russia.

On one convoy the seas were so violent the power of the waves ripped off the surface deck of the destroyer, trapping Doug and others for five days below deck.

The Imperial was so badly damaged she had to return to harbour for extensive repairs.

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Mr Sayles's war service involved Crete, Korea and the D-Day Landings, as well as many others,and he was awarded a great number of medals for his service.

These medals included The Palestine Star, the 1939 to 45 Star - for being in the Navy from start to finish of the war, The Atlantic Star, The Arctic Emblem, The Arctic Star, The Africa Star, The Italy Star and the Korean Star.

Mr Sayles was also awarded the The Malta George Cross 50th anniversary medal and although officially not supposed to as it was presented by the Governor of Malta for his service to the country, he still wore it.

When asked by the Duke of Edinburgh why he was persisting to wear the Malta George Cross, Mr Sayles replied it was because he was entitled to wear it.

"Well done," Prince Philip replied.

Gerald Lee, councillor of Heighington, said Mr Sayles is a well-loved member of the village.

He said: "Doug is highly respected in our community - always immaculately turned out, still doing his own washing and ironing and still managing to walk to church when the weather is kind.

"On the July 21 he will be the birthday guest in Heighington Village Hall where together with around 70 guests we will celebrate his birthday in true village style.

"On behalf of all the residents living in the Parish of Heighington I wish Mr Doug Sayles a very happy birthday."

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