AN RAF veteran who served during the Second World War before becoming a construction worker and maintenance man has died at the age of 102.

Tributes have been paid to John Sproat, who lived in Darlington for many years before moving to a care home in Consett, in County Durham for the final months of his life.

Mr Sproat has been described as a true gentleman, an immaculate dresser and a well-respected member of the community.

He had been a resident at Sir ED Walker Homes in Darlington for 23 years, and was seen out running in Coniscliffe Road up until his late 90s.

Born in Mount Oswald, Durham more than a century ago, he one of six sibling and was commonly known as Jack.

At the age of 23 he was called up to serve in the RAF, enjoying a distinguished career in the motorised transport section.

He fought alongside the men of Field Marshal Montgomery in the Second World War’s North Africa campaign, which ran from June 1940 to May 1943.

After the war, Mr Sproat spent the rest of his working career in the construction industry and, before he retired, was a maintenance man at Darlington’s Arts Centre.

Even at the age of 98 he could be seen running across Coniscliffe Road and walking into town.

He was also renowned for being house proud, dressing immaculately and doing his own ironing and hand-washing.

Jane Reed, manager of Sir E D Walker Homes, said: “He was such a true gentleman and I will really miss him.

"He was precious to us all and very well respected in our community.

"He loved living here, his bungalow, retaining his independence and also being part of the community.”

Chairman of Sir E D Walker Homes Alasdair MacConachie added: “John was such a character, charming and much-loved by everyone.

"He got on so well with our excellent staff and was an absolute pleasure to have as a resident.”

He had recently moved to a nursing home in Consett due to his ill health and so he could be closed to his family.

Two years ago, Sir E D Walker Homes, a charity providing independent living accommodation in Darlington, staged a surprise family reunion for Mr Sproat to mark his 100th birthday.

He was greeted by his younger sister Mary, 95, and brother Jim, 85, who he hadn’t seen for many years.

Crowds of well-wishers packed the community hall for a party organised by staff, featuring a special RAF cake and birthday card from the Queen.