One of Britain’s last remaining Dunkirk veterans still walks a mile every day after celebrating his 105th birthday.
John Hamilton said the secret to staying young was keeping fit, and despite now living in a care home he continues to live an active lifestyle.
To wit, the retired army major and great-grandfather spends 90 minutes in the gym daily and smashed the world rowing record for 1000 meter time trial at 95 years old.
“I feel good but it’s confusing—I’m so full of life and almost waiting for something to go wrong,” Hamilton said. “The key to a long life is exercising—it makes you physically well but is mentally stimulating too. If I didn’t go (exercising) I think my last days would be long gone by now.”
John was a keen sportsman and regularly played cricket, rugby, golf, tennis, squash, and polo during and around his 25-year career in the Royal Army.
During World War II, he like so many others was stranded on the beach at Dunkirk, France, in 1940 with his unit, the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards. They were rescued in one of the more memorable operations for the British, when dozens of civilian industrial and recreational ships crossed the English Channel to help the soldiers stranded there.
He met his wife that same year, sheltering under a storm in London’s Hyde Park. He eventually retired at age 39 having served in Palestine, Jordan, and Germany.
Hamilton now lives in a bungalow on the grounds of a nursing home where he is regularly visited by a caretaker as well as friends and family. But apart from that, he is entirely self-sufficient, and still walks a mile a day to keep fit.
“I gave up smoking my pipe six months ago because I went to buy some tobacco from the shop but I lost it,” he said, explaining his state of health. “I took it as a sign and quit after that—I feel better without it—after rowing I used to gasp for air but now I’m full of breath.”
The sire of three children, eight grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren, he nevertheless continues drinking a glass of wine every other night.
Reporters heard a close friend of his, Adela Forestier-Walker, suggest he was “probably more alert than most people half his age,” and that he still read “voraciously.”
As part of his 105th birthday celebrations, Hamilton’s former school, Clifton College, flew a flag in his honor while members of his regiment were present.
His memories of Dunkirk, despite being more than three-quarters of a century in the past, were “clear as [a] bell,” and they involved his time as an anti-aircraft gunner defending the retreating British from German bombers during the evacuation.