Dunkirk and Desert hero celebrates century

Major Alfreed Lindforth Pitman, 100th birthday, Greyfriars Court, Lewes SUS-160402-090532008
Major Alfreed Lindforth Pitman, 100th birthday, Greyfriars Court, Lewes SUS-160402-090532008

A war hero who was lifted off the beaches at Dunkirk, served in North Africa and was injured twice, celebrated his 100th birthday last week.

Major Alfred Linforth Pitman (known as Lin) now lives at Greyfriars Court, Lewes when, in his words, “I got too gaga to live on my own.”

The hugely articulate centenarian was born in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, educated at King’s, Canterbury and followed his father onto The Times where he worked in the newspaper’s intelligence department.

In this role he was a skilled researcher, gathering information not just for reporters and editors, but for government departments.

At the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Fourth Royal Sussex Regiment and was posted to France. After the British retreat, he was forced back to Dunkirk and, alongside almost 350,000 Allied servicemen, taken from the beach by one the ‘little ships.’

As a fluent French speaker, Major Pitman was soon posted to Cerenaica in eastern Libya, North Africa. He served in a Free French division where he saw action at the battle against Rommel’s forces at Bir Hakeim south of Tobruk when Free French defended the position against a massive German and Italian attack.

Injured when his truck hit an Italian mine, he twice spent time in the 64th General Hospital, Alexandria. When he turned up there for the second time the matron said: “Not you again!”

After hostilities ceased, Major Pitman went to Tripoli to help rebuild the city as a member of the regional government.

In the meantime he had married Mary Hedges in 1943.

He returned to the UK where he lived with his family in Three Bridges.

He re-joined the staff of The Times, while beginning his own writing career.

Later he became estates manager at Horselunges Manor, Hellingly later occupied by actor and music executive Peter Grant which featured in the opening scene in Led Zeppelin’s film, ‘The Song Remains the Same.’

Staff at Greyfriars Court have been in touch with Harveys Brewery and to celebrate Major Pitman’s birthday, the brewery presented him with a bottle of Irish whiskey and six bottles of beer, all bearing his own personalised label.

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