Party for D-Day glider pilot as he reaches 100

A former glider pilot who flew into Normandy on D-Day with a bulldozer in the back has celebrated his 100th birthday with his family.

Robert Ashby celebrates his 100th birthday with his family. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks16000727-2
Robert Ashby celebrates his 100th birthday with his family. Picture: Kate Shemilt ks16000727-2

Four generations were present at the party, held at Lordington Park Residential Home in Funtington on Friday.

Robert and his wife, Jeane, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2014. She now lives in a care home and was not able to be present at the party.

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Son Richard Ashby, who lives in Emsworth, said: “My father was a glider pilot at D-Day, Arnhem and the crossing of the Rhine. Latterly, he was county librarian of Surrey.”

ks16000727-1 Robert Ashby

Robert served in the Glider Pilot Regiment and did three airborne operations as a glider pilot, the first being D-Day.

When he returned from Normandy, he was granted a 48-hour leave to get married at a church in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, but at the last minute, he received a message to say he could have an extra week off.

The couple tied the knot on July 8, 1944 - Jeane’s 19th birthday. After their wedding, Robert flew a mission at Arnhem, now famed for the film A Bridge Too Far, and other at Nijmegen.

The couple first met in the Hitchin library, where Robert was a librarian. They had just started to get to know each other when he was called up by the Army.

After the war, Robert returned to library work. He later became county librarian for Surrey and was the curator for a museum in Kettering.

The couple lived in Hitchin, Kettering, Walton-on-Thames and Guildford before moving to Prinsted, near Southbourne, in 1985, later moving to Chichester.

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