A Napier man taken prisoner in World War Two celebrated a rare milestone on Saturday.
Alfred Bell, who was born in Napier on July 6, 1917, marked his 100th birthday with friends and family at Mission Estate Winery’s restaurant on Saturday.
More than 60 people joined Mr Bell to acknowledge his long and interesting life.
The centenarian’s actual birthday was on Thursday, a day he spent with close family, receiving cards from notables including the Queen, Prime Minister Bill English and the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy.
His daughter, Glenys Dustow, who organised Saturday’s party, said the family were grateful to be able to celebrate such a big milestone with her father.
It meant a lot to them that he had made it to 100 in good health and was still living at his Tamatea home with his wife, Hazel, she said.
Mr Bell said he was pleased to be able to mark the occasion with so many loved ones at his party on Saturday and he was humbled that people came from near and far including Shanghai, Melbourne, Auckland and Napier.
All four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren were there.
Mr Bell was born in Napier and was one of 30 children (including half-siblings).
His father died when he was seven and two years later, because of the financial strain this put on his mother, he and several of his brothers were moved to a children’s home in Napier and a few years later a boys’ home.
At 15 he started working as a farm hand and a few years later he enlisted in the Army as part of the 22nd Wellington Infantry Battalion.
He was part of the Second NZ Expeditionary Force sent to Europe and Middle East. He was stationed first in Egypt then Crete.
On Crete he got shot in the foot and was among many NZ troops who were captured during the German invasion of the island in 1941.
He was taken to Germany and spent the remaining years of the war in a prisoner of war camp.
After the war he returned to farming for several years before moving to Napier and meeting his wife at church.
They raised their children, two boys and two girls, in Maraenui, with yearly caravan holidays around the country.
In Mr Bell’s long life he has seen a lot of change throughout the world.
The year he was born, 1917, was the year of the Russian Revolution, the Battle of Passchendaele, Einstein’s paper on the quantum theory of radiation and the signing of the Balfour Declaration leading to the creation of Israel.
NZME-Hawke’s Bay Today