Veterans

Do you want to help celebrate a Burma Campaign veteran's 100th birthday?

Here's how you can easily get involved.

A veteran who served in the Burma Campaign in the Second World War is preparing to celebrate his 100th birthday and staff at the care home where he lives are calling on the military community to send him birthday cards and write him letters to help him celebrate his big day.

British Army veteran Teddy 'Happy' Hampstead was a private in the 4th Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, now Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, serving in the Burma Campaign which earned him the Burma Star medal.

Teddy, who deployed on his 18th birthday and returned just after his 21st, is getting ready to celebrate his 100th birthday on May 4 this year.

Ruth Hodkinson, the activity coordinator at Redroofs Care Home in Newark where Teddy is a resident, is calling for serving personnel and veterans to get in contact with Teddy to wish him well and help celebrate the milestone.

Ruth, who is also part of a military family, spoke to Richard Hatch, a BFBS the Forces Station broadcaster, about Teddy's life and service and called on members of the Armed Forces and wider military community to show their support for the veteran for his birthday.

She said: "When you're in the military, you know it's a big family and how supportive we are of each other. 

"I think we ought to celebrate him and have some good news, so what I'm asking from you today is anyone serving, please would you send a postcard or a birthday card with what regiment you are and where you're serving? 

"I'm going to plot you on a map in our residential care home with Teddy and then he can see how far our services are at the moment and where they're serving, and he will find that absolutely fascinating." 

She said this was not only a request for British Army personnel to send greetings, as she would like the event to be tri-service. The more correspondence the better, she added.

On the day of Teddy's birthday, Ruth is planning for "a proper knees-up" with serving soldiers paying a visit in their number 1 uniform.

There will also be plenty of tea, cake and bunting with a 1940s-themed singer to provide entertainment. Later in the week, the residents and care home staff will enjoy a performance by the Military Wives Choir. 

Teddy Hampstead Burma Campaign veteran Burma Star recipient Redroofs Care Home resident soon to be 100 Picture Teddy Hampstead
Teddy pictured while he was serving with 4th Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment (Picture: Teddy Hampstead).

Teddy's service with 4th Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment was full of highs and lows. The 99-year-old veteran has spoken with the residents and staff at his care home of being cut off for five days with no support or supplies at Kohima, being blown up and having big bits of shrapnel pulled out of his skin - there is still one bit in his forehead - and he vividly recalls scaling the heights of the Arakan mountain range in Lower Burma during an assualt on Japanese forces. 

However, he also fondly remembers the comradeship during his service, as Ruth explained to Forces News. She said: "He talks about the grenades and the terrible time but as always, remembers the comradeship and with great amusement an adventure with comrades (I think in India) ... to get steak and his favourite apple pie and custard." 

The veteran has written down many of his memories in a short memoir. However, as Ruth explained, there is a reason she cannot repeat the stories she has read about on BFBS the Forces Station, saying "I'm not able to share them on air because they're a little bit blue, but with military humour coming through, you'll understand what I mean. 

"He was a young man remember, and he served his time.

"It was about him and his friends and what they got up to being hit by Red Caps, missing curfews and literally being a bit of a lad, I think. 

"But you can still see that in him today."

Teddy Hampstead Burma Campaign veteran Burma Star recipient Redroofs Care Home resident soon to be 100 Picture Ruth Hodkinson
Teddy poses wearing his medals (Picture: Ruth Hodkinson).

Teddy keeps in contact with family members including his granddaughter and great-grandsons, but Ruth hopes the whole military community will help make his landmark birthday a particularly special occasion.

Ruth is full of admiration for the veteran and describes him as a fantastic gentleman, adding: "He may be 100 years old, but ... he really doesn't look above 80 and he still has the twinkle in his eye and a dry sense of humour and the most beautiful West Country accent when he speaks." 

Teddy is in good health, has what Ruth describes as a beautiful singing voice, and gets involved with all the activities, including armchair exercises and some rather unique marching. She said: "He's very good at marching and all sorts of other exercises he does. 

"It does a bit freestyle but at 100 I can't really pull him up on that." 

If you want to send Teddy a card, letter or postcard to help celebrate his 100th birthday please include your regiment and where you have served so that the care home can add the location to their map. 

The address is: 

Redroofs Care Home

35a Grange Road

Newark on Trent

Notts

NG24 4LH

Cover image: Teddy Hampstead poses wearing his medals (Picture: Ruth Hodkinson).