THIS IS a year of milestones for one solihull resident – not only has she celebrated her 100th birthday but this year also marks a century since her father fought in and survived the Battle of the Somme.
Edith Bailey-Hunt, or ‘Belinda’ as she was nicknamed by wartime comrades, enjoyed her centenary birthday party surrounded by 70 friends, residents and family members at the Star and Garter’s Solihull Home, which cares for disabled veterans.
Born in Bordesley Green on July 14, 1916 Belinda signed up to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1940 as she wanted to be part of the war effort.
Belinda saw six years of wartime service in the ATS she was de-mobbed in summer 1946 as a Junior Commander and has described her war years as among the happiest of her life.
An extract from Belinda’s memoir recalls her enlistment, it reads: “Hoping to surprise him with the news, I did not mention this to my father, but, what a shock.
“He was furious – and asked me to cancel.
“I could not agree: I did so want to be part of the war effort.
“I will never forget his face when I met him in my uniform – all was forgiven.”
Speaking of his aunt’s life story one of Belinda’s nephews, Cosmo Corfield, noted the extraordinary coincidence of Belinda’s 100th birthday, the Star and Garter’s centennial year and the centenary of the first tank battle at Flers-Courcelette, part of the Somme offensive, in which Belinda’s father, Ernie Hunt, fought as part of ‘C’ Coy Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps.
Ernie was decorated after driving tank C6 (Cordon Rouge) into battle.
As the so-called ‘cocktail crewmen’ of ‘C’-Company named their tanks after famous French wines and spirits beginning with the letter ‘C’, family guests toasted Belinda’s centenary with champagne flutes of G.H. Mumm ‘Cordon Rouge’.
Having expressed her astonishment at turning one hundred Belinda said: “I’ve been so lucky with the people I’ve met – and who have cared for me. I’ve had a wonderful life, absolutely wonderful.”