Wartime aircraft engineer celebrates 100 years of memories on landmark birthday

A remarkable man who was an engineer on Halifax bombers during the Second World War was helped to celebrate his 100th birthday inside his favourite aircraft.

Terry Halstead – a member of the Monday at One group at Mount Zion Church, Cliviger – was taken for his memorable return to the aircraft in a trip organised by David Stansfield, a member of the group and the leader of the church’s men’s group.

“We went to the Yorkshire Air Museum, at Elvington, where the staff made Terry welcome and allowed him inside the Handley Page Halifax, It was a great reunion,” said Mr Stansfield.

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Terry, worked at many Yorkshire airfields during the war as an engine fitter working on the Merlin engines.

The Monday at One group celebrate with a birthday cake containing ten candles – one for each ten of Terry’s 100 years.

“Parts of the engine were very difficult to access so I even made a set of tools which allowed me to get to those awkward areas,” Terry said.

At one airfield it was suggested to him that he might become a flight engineer but he pointed out “I felt safer on the ground.”

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Most of his work on the huge four-engine aircraft was done in the open air because of the size of the aircraft.

He also had a lucky escape was when he was asked to go on one test trip in the Lake District but the pilot took off along with a group of trainee navigators before Terry was on board. The aircraft crashed and all on board lost their lives. “That was a very close call,” he said.

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Terry with the Halifax bomber
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Back on civvy street Terry became a plumber, working in Todmorden where he lived.

At Mount Zion on Monday the group welcomed him to a special party, with a cake provided, to mark his 100th year. Each Monday Terry and David enjoy playing chess. “I hadn’t played chess since leaving school but started when I tripped and fell during a table tennis game,” he said.

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Terry, who is still a bell ringer at St Mary’s Church, Todmorden, is probably the country’s oldest living active bell ringer.

“I started as a young man and thoroughly enjoy it. St Mary’s is a great church to do bell ringing because there are no stairs to climb it is all on one level,” commented the veteran ringer.