Help Wigan war hero Harry celebrate 101st birthday in style

As a war hero prepares to celebrate another landmark birthday, his family hopes Wiganers will be just as keen to help him celebrate as they were last year.

Monday, 12th April 2021, 2:28 pm
Updated Monday, 12th April 2021, 4:06 pm

Second World War veteran Harry Melling turns 101 years old on April 18th. Harry, who lives at Alexandra Grange Care Home in Newton, is Britain’s oldest surviving submariner from the second world war.

Last year, Harry's birthday fell during the height of the first lockdown, meaning he was confined to Alexandra Grange Care Home and unfortunately couldn’t celebrate the incredible occasion with his loved ones.

However, the community rallied around Harry and, following an appeal in the Wigan Observer, he received more than 700 birthday cards from well wishers from around the world, including from afar as Canada.

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Harry Melling will soon celebrate his 101st birthday

And now, a year on, Wiganers are being encouraged to shower Harry with the same level of attention for his 101st birthday.

Well wishers are encouraged to send a birthday card to Harry at his care home - at Alexandra Grange, Alexandra Court, Howard St, Pemberton, Wigan WN5 8BD. The care home has kindly offered to accept any cards posted to them for Harry.

Harry’s great-nephew Matthew, known to most as The Wigan Runner, said: “I can’t believe it’s already a year since he turned 100 and received over 700 cards, mostly from people in Wigan. A lot of people know about him now, so some cards came from Australia, Canada, America and France!

“He’s still not able to have a big celebration because of the current restrictions in place, but we intend to have a party from him when it’s safe to do so, whenever that may be.

Harry at Alexandra Grange

“It’s been a tough year for Harry. He’s been confined to his room, shielding for a lot of the last six months especially. We’ve only been able to see him through a window until recently. We’re just looking forward to being able to do normal things with him again soon.”

Harry’s service between 1939 and 1945 was remarkable, with him and the other crew members of HMS Osiris serving in the Mediterranean where they played a role in the Allied invasion of Sicily and even travelling as far as Kenya.

In a previous interview with the Wigan Post, Harry said: “The Mediterranean was a hot sea, it was far too busy and it was very dangerous. It was more or less only submarines operating there.

“However, it was a good life on board. I got to do things and see things I would never have normally done or seen.

Harry with great nephew Matthew

“We had to go all round the south of Africa and then up to Kenya because it would have been too dangerous otherwise. I must admit for someone of my ilk to be going to the middle of Africa was an eye-opener. I was only in my early 20s so it was a real education.

“The place was still British at the time and everyone knew the British. The Kenyan people were as British as a lot of English people were, although they spoke with a different accent. On board a submarine it was quiet. When you dived you stayed down as long as you could and you were waiting for something to happen.

“You weren’t stirring things up, you weren’t creating a situation, but if something did happen you were just hoping you would be there.

“It was quite claustrophobic and the smell after diving was foul, although you got accustomed to it. It wasn’t hectic on a submarine, you got your sleep. We got on each other’s nerves a bit but when we went into combat it broke that up.”

Harry during the war

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