Centenarian recalls watching cricket greats in their pomp

Congratulations from The Queen ... Tony Peakall in his purple neckerchief
Congratulations from The Queen ... Tony Peakall in his purple neckerchief

A commemorative wooden plate made for him by grateful German civilians at the end of the Second World War is one of Tony Peakall’s most precious possessions.

He keeps it in his room at Lime Tree House residential care home in Ringmer, where on Tuesday he celebrated his 100th birthday.

Tony was born in Reepham, Norfolk, on June 12, 1918, around five months before the First World War ended.

One of his earliest memories is walking past the Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood, London, with his father. This moment spurred a lifelong love for the sport.

He recalls watching Gloucester’s Wally Hammond against Middlesex on July 13, 1928. Aged 10, he watched in awe with his packed lunch.

Hammond’s trademark purple handkerchief left Tony loving the colour to this day. He is often seen sporting his own purple neckerchief at Lime Tree House.

He’s also passionate about football and is an Arsenal fan. He remembers watching them play at their former Highbury ground in 1938.

In his lifetime, he is lucky to have seen Denis Compton play at both cricket and football.

At the start of the Second World War he joined the Wiltshire Regiment at Devizes, aged 21. He transferred to the Worcestershire Regiment as a sergeant. Tony was commissioned in 1944 into the Reconnaissance Corps.

He was involved in the Rhine crossings. By the end of the war in 1945 he was in command of a village called Bestwig in Germany. It was there that the villagers made the commemorative wooden plate to thank Tony for his treatment of them.

He was much decorated for his war service, being awarded the 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany Star, the War Medal and the Defence Medal.

After the war, he followed in his father’s footsteps and worked on the Drapers Record publication. He became advertisement manager and then head of trade fair exhibitions.

Tony married Joy Foster in 1954 and they had two sons, Neil and Grant.

He retired in 1984 and moved to Lewes in 2013.

Tony only moved into care at the age of 99, a testimony to the independence instilled in him during his wartime years.

Kirsty Timms, Home Services Administrator at Lime Tree House, said: “He’s really lively. He walks around helping the other residents out.”