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Watch RAF deliver birthday surprise to former drill sergeant who still plays tennis at 90

Bill Bassett is on cloud nine after friends organised a very special 90th birthday treat.

By Kevin Clark
Saturday, 7th May 2022, 6:00 am

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Bill, from Belmont near Durham, is a regular at the Silksworth sports centre where he plays tennis every fortnight to keep himself fit.

Learning that his landmark was around the corner, friend Chris Clark organised a very special reminder of his younger days.

Before setting up business as a self-employed plumber, Bill spent his national service in the Royal Air Force, rising to the rank of drill sergeant.

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And to mark the big day he was presented with a dedicated drill stick by RAF Corporal Chris Kendall, who made the 500-mile round trip from RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire to make the presentation and offer Bill the chance to see how it is done these days, with an invitation to attend a passing out parade as special guest.

Bill was blown away by the surprise party, even if he wasn’t happy about admitting his age: “I still feel young,” he said.

"I don’t like to think about being an old man.”

He loves coming to the centre for more than just his fortnightly game of tennis: “I love the people here,” he said.

Bill Bassett with his dedicated drill stick

He was taken aback by his special surprise birthday bash: “I didn’t have a clue.”

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Chris Clark was delighted to make Bill’s big day: “He used to come every week,” he said.

"He used to drive himself and he’d get here about an hour-and-a-half early just to be on the safe side.

Bill with Corporal Chris Kendall

“He had to stop driving a little while ago, so there are a few of us who take it in turns to go through to Belmont and pick him up.

"You can see by the number of people here how well loved he is.”

Bill’s sons Philip and Gavin were in on the secret and Gavin said it was no surprise his dad was still going strong as he entered his 10th decade.

"He worked until he was 70 but even after that he was still fitting bathrooms and doing plumbing jobs until he was 80,” he said.

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"Every bathroom he fitted after 70 was going to be the last one – but it never was.”

Bill in his RAF days - front centre, complete with drill stick
Bill flanked by sons Gavin (left) and Philip