THE approach of Remembrance Sunday this weekend has prompted World War Two veteran John Gilpin to look back on his time serving his country in the RAF.
The 101 year-old, who lives in Conlig, joined up in 1939, initially as a trainee aircraft engineer, before transferring to serve as an air gunner in 214 squadron.
He recently spoke about his memories and of how he earned his war medals when he was visited by North Down MLA, Stephen Dunne.
John, who was affectionately known as Paddy during his many years of service, was born in East Belfast on July 12, 1922.
His father worked on the Titanic as an apprentice carpenter at Harland and Wolff, whilst John began his career working as a car mechanic.
Whilst serving with the RAF in Suffolk he met his future wife Gwen and after returning from war John became a successful businessman, starting his own Motor Factors shop in Belfast.
He and Gwen then moved their family to Doncaster where John set up another successful business, supplying steelworks and coal mines, with a number of branches in Great Britain.
John returned to Northern Ireland more than 20 years ago and is now looked after by his daughter in his home in Conlig following Gwen’s sad passing six months ago.
Mr Dunne said of his visit: “I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with John and hearing some stories about his years of dedicated service, and sacrifice, and the many risks people like John took in defence of freedom during the most difficult of days during World War Two.
“As we are now in the remembrance period it is important that we take the opportunity to stop and reflect, and say thank you to people like John who gave so much in defence of our freedoms, as well as to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms of our future generations.
“It was very interesting to listen and learn from a man like John who has seen so much during his many years. John is an incredible man, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to people like John, who served with such distinction,” said Mr Dunne.