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Aberdeenshire war veteran celebrates his 100th birthday

Chariie Forbes
Chariie Forbes

An north-east World War II veteran who survived a torpedo attack in the Atlantic has celebrated a century of life with his nearest and dearest in his beloved Deeside.

When Charlie Forbes was born at Green Cottage in the Raemoir area of Banchory, the UK was in the first months of trench warfare on the western front and King George V was on the throne.

He celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday, March 7, with a special tea for family and friends at the Deeside Activity Park’s Bull Ring carvery at Dess, near Aboyne.

Mr Forbes married wife Flossie in 1935 and the couple lived at Lumphanan, where they had two children together – Charlie jun and Ian – before moving to Aboyne 20 years ago.

Charlie jun died in 1996 and Mrs Forbes in 2011.

Charlie Forbes' letter from the Queen
Charlie Forbes’ letter from the Queen

Mr Forbes worked as a lorry driver for Aberdeenshire Council for most of his working life, save for six years spent in the Army’s Royal Engineers for almost the entire duration of World War II – from 1939 to 1945.

However, he only agreed to sign up after his boss at the local authority assured him he would still have his job as a lorry driver on his return.

During his six years of duty, he was on board the SS Mohamed Ali El-Kebir when it was torpedoed and sank 250 miles off Northern Ireland, on August 7, 1940, killing 96 people.

The ship had been en route to the Mediterranean from Avonmouth when it was attacked by a German U-38.

Celebrating Charlie Forbes' birthday
Celebrating Charlie Forbes’ birthday

Son Ian Forbes, 76, said: “He was a lorry driver with the council for more than 40 years, It was a broken service because he was called up to the Army.

“He went away to do this fighting for six years and came back to the lorry until he retired in 1981.

“He would have been in France and they were headed for somewhere when they got torpedoed.

“He never really spoke about the war, he’s a great British Legion man as well and was a standard bearer for a lot of years.

“His wife died this three years past in August and he lives in Aboyne now. He manages to look after himself okay. We had 23 people here in total.”

The eldest of nine siblings, Mr Forbes has two brothers who live in Edinburgh.

He is also the proud grandfather of seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

To mark his landmark birthday, he received a telegram from the Queen – which left him “delighted”.

Deeside Activity Park manager, Cilla Wood, said the party had been a huge success.

She added: “It was really fantastic, we managed to get the photographs from the parish church when he was born and photos of his christening and when he was in the forces.”

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