A WORLD War II hero is celebrating his 100th birthday – more than 76 years after he was reported dead during the North Africa campaign.
Tom Greenwood was behind enemy lines in 1942 as part of the 22nd Armoured Brigade’s attempts to sabotage German supply lines and ports.
SWNS:South West News Service Tom Greenwood celebrated his century with his family in Shipley, West Yorks. He was reported dead 76 years ago while fighting in North Africa[/caption]
He was captured on June 13 near El Alamein but a telegram was sent to his parents saying he had been killed in action.
His fiancee Marjorie Hartley refused to believe the news and she was proved right when his family received a second telegram two months later to say he was alive but was a prisoner of war.
He married Marjorie after the war and they had two children. She passed away in 2000 but Tom, a great-grandfather-of-two, has now celebrated his 100 th birthday with three generations of his family at the care home in Shipley, West Yorks., where he lives.
SWNS:South West News Service The veteran was captured in 1942 as the 22nd Armoured Brigade fought behind Nazi lines[/caption]
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His daughter, Sheila Donaldson, 64, said: “I asked him the secret to his long life and he said it was to ‘keep breathing’.
“Until a few years ago he would keep himself fit by walking and cutting logs for his fire with a chainsaw. He loved his cars and drove until he was 97.
“He has smoked a pipe all his life. He wasn’t a big drinker but in later years he liked a whisky and dry ginger every evening before he went to bed.”
Tom joined the Ordnance Corps as a 20-year-old engineer and was later attached to the Scots Guards which formed part of the 22nd Armoured Brigade.
SWNS:South West News Service Tom’s family received a ‘killed in action’ telegram, before receiving a second two months on saying he was a prisoner[/caption]
After he was captured he was taken to an Italian-run POW camp in Libya. He was moved to other camps in Italy and Austria, at one stage having to trade his watch for a place in hospital after contracting malaria.
He was discharged from the Army in 1946 and worked for the family garage until it closed in 1980 when he became a cabbie.
His son Dave Greenwood, 66, said: “Dad spoke very little about the war when he came home unless prompted by a TV programme.
“I remember he told me he and his fellow prisoners were given the job of rebuilding a dam.”
SWNS:South West News Service The veteran was discharged from the army in 1946 and began working for the family garage[/caption]
“They would load cement into one side of a train then take it out of the other side and throw it over the dam, just to delay the project.
“At the same time, they were being bombed by allied aircraft who were trying to further destroy the dam and the river bridges.
“He also mentioned that, when in one of the camps, they were adjacent to a camp containing Russian prisoners who were treated far worse than British POWs.
“Whenever one of the Russian prisoners died, the rest would try to keep it secret for as long as possible so they could continue to draw their rations.”
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