A LOCAL man surrounded by friends and family celebrated his 100th birthday last week.
Frank Helsmore turned 100 on Monday, 3 September and marked the occasion with three generations of his family.
The centenarian born in 1913, has lived in Brentwood since 1955, after moving from West Ham with his wife Lille (who died in 1997) and three children.
The couple married in 1938 in a Church of England service. Frank recalls: “My wife’s family had a priest who visited them, who is now a cardinal at the Vatican. Well he always said we were not really married, but I’ve got the certificate to prove it!”
Asked how it feels to be 100 Frank joked: “Absolutely awful!” before proudly showing the Enquirer his telegram from the Queen congratulating him on his birthday. “It’s a really lovely message and a very nice photo.
“It’s been a long life and I’ve seen lots. I think the war stands out the most to be honest,” says Frank, who was not called up to the forces due to his work in beam deflection, a reserved occupation.
The 100-year-old says: “When an invading plane came in, we would pick up the beam and redirect it sending them off course. It was all going on then!”
The great-grandfather also experienced a few close shaves during the early forties. “I was with my sister walking in East Ham when a plane came overhead and zoomed over us and the mast of the telephone exchange and dropped a bomb on the other side of the road, by our house. It was a close shave. Then I was working in North Woolwich and sitting on the top deck of the bus and a bus bomb followed us for a few dozen yards. I thought to myself ‘this is a bit dodgy’. The bus driver then turned around a corner and the plane went on and dropped the bomb further up the road- just 100 yards away.”
Perhaps his closest shave came on his cycle to work during the war. Frank says: “I was going my usual route on my pushbike, but the area was roped off. I wasn’t having that, so I climbed under the rope and halfway across there was a small hole in the ground. I took no notice but when I came back that evening there was a big crater in the road- it had been an unexploded bomb!”
Life settled down after the war and Frank worked in post office engineering and then moved over to telecoms.
A proud father to Diane, 69, Pauline, 68, and Corinne, 63, a grandfather to eight and a great-grandfather to five children, Frank marked his special day with a family celebration. He had two brothers Ken and Lawrence and a younger sister Phyllis who, aged 96, also joined in the family fun. He says: “It went beautifully, lots of relatives – they all rallied round and the amount of bottles – you’d think one for every year!”