A Long, Lucky Life – Harry Wadleigh celebrates 100 years

Harry Wadleigh has led a wonderful, long life. Photo: Andrew Vivian


HARRY Wadleigh was born in one of the most optimistic times in history.

In 1920, the first World War had not long ended, and people everywhere were expecting good times.

Harry’s earliest memories are of Christmas parties in Chiswick, London, where he was born.

His father was a sea captain who didn’t always get home for Christmas, but when he did, brought sacks full of toys from all over the world.

By the time Harry was 10, his father had retired and had bought a country pub.

Harry lived there happily until he was 16, when he went to sea as an apprentice deck officer.

However, at the end of his second year, he failed a mandatory eyesight test and became a laboratory assistant at a private school instead.

When World War II arrived, Harry became a radio operator in the Royal Navy, taking part in convoys in the cold, wet, dangerous North Atlantic.

Harry remembers sailing from Scotland to West Africa when his ship inexplicably caught fire.

Luckily, a British destroyer was nearby.

There were no lifeboats, so everyone had to jump at least 3m to safety.

Not everyone survived.

Harry was awarded the French Legion of Honour for helping direct bombardments for the first wave of landings on D-Day, and, afterwards, controlling ship to ship radio communications.

After the war, he helped set up a university in Zimbabwe and lived there for 10 years.

In 1962, Harry and his wife and two children boarded a freighter in East Africa with their car.

They landed in Sydney and drove to Armidale where Harry became a laboratory manager at the University of New England for 19 years.

His wife, Elizabeth, was a musician and artist and worked as a lecturer in the music department at the Teachers College.

Harry retired in 1980 to Port Stephens where he had a cruiser and a yacht.

His hobbies included trout fishing in the Snowy Mountains and boating.

Harry and Elizabeth travelled extensively and spent a lot of time in France.

After Elizabeth passed away, Harry sold his house in Boambee and returned to England for a year.

He has since lived in Sawtell for eight years and loves it.

When asked about strategies for living to 100 years old, Harry said, “So many things can happen to you, particularly in a war, so I would say that the number one reason for my long life is sheer luck.”


By Andrew VIVIAN

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