A FORMER soldier who was involved in the mission of securing Pegasus Bridge in 1944 has celebrated his 100th birthday.

Frederick Gilbert Wilson, known as Gilbert by friends, was born at Newby Bridge on May 10, 1919. He was the eldest of seven children and lived with his grandparents in the Railway Cottages until the age of three when he moved to Hawkshead after his parents Jack and Adeline Wilson had set up a business at The Dairy.

During his time in Hawkshead, Mr Wilson sang with The Dandys, a popular vocal group started up by Major Rothwell.

The family moved to Home Farm, Grizedale when he was 16-years-old.

Mr Wilson joined the army in 1939; his training took place in Aldershot and eight weeks later he was in France.

In 1942 he joined the School of Airborne Supply as an Instructor training soldiers how to drop supplies in preparation for ‘D’ Day. He then volunteered for the Parachute Regiment ,7th Battalion, and went to the Battle School at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. Throughout 1942 and 1943 Gilbert was involved in parachute training at Ringway Aerodrome in Manchester. Parachute training took place in the grounds of Tatton Park in Cheshire. In 1944, with the 7th Battalion, Light Infantry, Parachute Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Geoffrey Pine-Coffin, Gilbert and fellow parachutists were dropped into Bénouville, France.

The Light Infantry and supporting Royal Engineers helped to secure a strategic bridgehead, known later as Pegasus Bridge. (In 1996 the 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment was given the freedom of the town, in recognition of its united courage and bravery in liberating Bénouville.)

In 1945 Gilbert worked as an Instructor in the Parachute Battle School and later that year he went to India, Singapore and Batavia, Java. The following year he was demobilised, returning home to Grizedale. In 1948 he married his wife Joan in Satterthwaite church, and they settled at Middle Dale Park Farm, Satterthwaite, where, over 20 years they built up the farm and raised three children, Elizabeth, John and Sally. In 1968 they gave up farming and moved to Sandown, Isle of Wight where they bought a guest house and built up a very successful business. Alongside building extensions and growing fruit and vegetables for the guests, Gilbert worked full time at the Alliance Catering Supplies in Sandown but on retiring In 1987, he and his wife decided to move back to Cumbria and bought a house in Ravenglass.

Sadly, in 1997 Mr Wilson's beloved wife Joan passed away and life became much quieter. Joan had played piano and accordion and over the years was involved in the local W.I. and Mothers Union as well as providing music for barn dances and hunt balls and sing-along sessions at the Parachute Regiment re-unions.

In 1998 Gilbert attended the Parachute Regiment presentation of the new colours at Aldershot and along with other members of the regiment, he was presented to HRH Prince of Wales, the Parachute Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, which was a great honour. Throughout retirement Gilbert’s passions have been growing fruit and vegetables as well as using his woodworking skills to craft chests of drawers, wardrobes, tables, benches, table top lamps, swing mirrors and hand carved walking sticks. Gilbert continues to live independently in Ravenglass, although giving up driving at the age of 94 has made getting out and about problematic. However, visits from his children and their families – there are five grandchildren and six great grandchildren - often turn into much appreciated shopping expeditions.