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D-Day veteran, Bill Gladden, celebrates 100th birthday at surprise party thrown by his family

D-Day veteran Bill Gladden, who was shot by a tank, appeared overcome by emotion as he celebrated his 100th birthday at a surprise party organised by his family.

Bill was 20 years old when he flew into Normandy on a military glider with a tank and six motorbikes on June 6, 1944.

He moved to an orchard just outside the French village of Ranville, near the strategically important Pegasus Bridge that the 6th Airborne Reconnaissance Regiment was tasked with protecting.

But he was severely injured when he was shot in the leg by a German tank 12 days after he arrived.

He was flown back to the UK and spent the following three years in hospital.

He turns 100 on Saturday, and his family organised a surprise party for him on Friday.

Bill was open-mouthed as he saw the crowd of people waiting for him at the community hall in Haverhill, Suffolk, and they began to sing Happy Birthday.

As people set off party poppers, the veteran, who was brought into the room in a wheelchair, raised his cupped palms to his sides and mouthed “thank you”.

When asked later by a guest if he had any idea about the surprise, he replied: “No idea whatsoever.”

His niece Kaye Thorpe, who organised his surprise 100th birthday party, said: “I just think he’s a legend, what he’s been through, what he’s seen, what he’s done.

“He’s just amazing, and he’s still bright as a button on top.

“Not many people reach to 100 now, so I had to do something.”

Former carer Mrs Thorpe, 59, said Bill told family he didn’t want “any fuss”, so they told him they were going out for a meal to get him to the surprise party.

The gathering was attended by family, friends and people from the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans – who have taken Bill back to Normandy in recent years.

The hall was decorated with balloons and there was a cake with a military beret, aircraft and medals in icing.


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