Sunderland Seaman torpedoed during World War Two celebrates 100th birthday with family and friends
A merchant navy seaman who was torpedoed during World War Two has been celebrating his 100th birthday with family and friends at Dovecote Meadow assisted living accommodation.
George Bell, who worked as a fitter at Doxford Shipyard before joining the Merchant Navy in 1942, celebrated his reaching his landmark centenary on Thursday, October 21, with a party organised by sons John and George Bell.
John, 67, said: “My dad worked on the Empire Housman ship which was crossing the Atlantic when it was torpedoed in 1943. My dad ended up in the sea but was fortunately picked up by the Royal Navy.
"He was over the moon to get his card from the Queen. I think it’s everyone’s goal to reach 100 but not many get there.”
A keen dominoes and darts player, George was born in 1921 and grew up in Monkwearmouth, not far from Roker Park.
John added: “He is a keen Sunderland supporter and would have been attending the games when they last won the league in 1936. His favourite players are Len Shackleton and Raich Carter.
"My dad really enjoyed the party and had an excellent time.”
Due to the impacts of Covid restrictions, it was the first time since the start of the pandemic that George had been able to see many extended family members and friends at Dovecote Meadow assisted living accommodation, in Fordfield Road.
Son George, 71, said: “My dad really enjoyed the party but he got a bit emotional at times as there were a lot of people he had not seen for a couple of years due to Covid. Even I was not able to come and see him at the start of restrictions.
"It’s been a really difficult period and I’m just really pleased that the restrictions were ended in time for his 100th birthday.”
Having married in 1948, George sadly lost his wife Ruth in 1992.
He has spent much of his retirement hiking the hills of Northern England – something which George credits to contributing to his longevity.
Son George added: “My dad has always been active throughout his retirement and right up until his early nineties we would spend every weekend walking in the Lake District, North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales. Even up until his mid nineties we continued to do local walks along the River Wear.
"It’s only in recent years that he has started to struggle with his mobility. My dad has never been a smoker and has always done everything in moderation and my mam always looked after him really well until she sadly died.”
John added: “He’s always been a social person and enjoyed a pint at the Willow Pond and other pubs on Hylton Road.”
Although George now struggles with his hearing he did say he “really enjoyed his party” and was “pleased to see all his friends and family again”.
Son George added: “I think it must be in the genes as all my dad’s family have lived long – his mother lived to 96. A lot of people are taken too early and so we feel blessed be able to be here to celebrate his 100th birthday with him.”