Cavalry holds surprise 100th birthday party for Second World War veteran

  • Alf Lawes

    Alf Lawes talks to Staff Corporal Matthew McGuire (left) and Staff Corporal Todd Martin. Photos by PA Wire/PA Images

    A Second World War veteran who served with the Royal Horse Guards was treated to a surprise party to mark his 100th birthday.

    Alf Lawes, who served as a mounted soldier and a driver between 1939 and 1946, was the guest of honour at the party held at the Household Cavalry Regiment’s Windsor base at Combermere Barracks on 14 November.

    He was presented with the Legion d’Honneur medal — the highest French order of merit — by Field Marshal the Lord Buthrie, the Colonel of the Life Guards.

    Alf Lawes

    He was also given a cake while the guests, which included his family, fellow veterans and serving soldiers, sang Happy Birthday.

    “I wasn’t expecting all this fuss,” said Mr Lawes, who also received a birthday card from The Queen.

    When he joined the reserve regiment 68 years ago, all Household Cavalry recruits were trained as mounted soldiers and Alf was no exception. Riding is still part of the requirements for all soldiers in the Household Cavalry today.

    After the presentation, Mr Lawes was pictured with a Dingo vehicle, the same model as the one he drove during the war.

    Staff Corporal Matt McGuire and Staff Corporal Todd Martin both pay regular visits to the centenarian.

    Colonel of The Life Guards and Gold Stick, Field Marshal, the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank with Alf Lawes

    “We go in to check he’s ok, to give him cake and to hear his stories,” said SCpl McGuire.

    “He doesn’t talk much about his time in the war… he does tell us that he was the first man into Brussels when it was liberated though, after he took a wrong turn in his vehicle!”

    Alf Lawes

    Article continues below…

    You might also be interested in:

    7 things you might not know about the Household Cavalry’s annual trip to Norfolk

    In The Queen's 90th birthday year, the Household Cavalry's diary has been fuller than usual, so its annual trip to

    In June 2014, former French president François Hollande announced on the 70th anniversary of D-Day that the Legion d’Honneur would be awarded to all British veterans who fought for the liberation of France during the Second World War.

    When asked what it feels like to reach the age of 100, Mr Lawes was said to reply: “Nothing changes, I get up each day and carry on”.

    Mr Lawe’s granddaughter Karen Elliott was also part of the secret organisation of the day.

    “The Household Cavalry lads are great with my granddad, they treat him as one of their own,” she said.

    I think the relationship between the Army and their veterans is fantastic and I am so grateful for what they do.”

    Credit: Sgt Paul Randall RLC

    Mr Lawes, known as Bill to his friends, was living with his family in Windsor and working as a railway porter when war broke out.

    He joined the Royal Horse Guards on 27 November 1939 and was posted ot the Household Cavalry Training Centre (Reserve Regiment) for his initial triaining.

    The Reserve Regiment became the Household Cavalry Motor Battalion on 21 December 1940 and was later rebranded again as the 2nd Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR).

    Credit: Sgt Paul Randall RLC

    Mr Lawes was part of 2HCR which landed at Juno beach on 13 July 1944.

    The regiment was involved in in the pursuit of the retreating German army across France, heavy fighting around Amiens and the Somme bridges, the liberation of Brussels, linking up with the Paras at Arnhem, and the final victory in Europe in May 1945.

    General Sir Brian Horrocks, who had 2HCR under his command in north western Europe, described the regiment as “the finest armoured car unit I have ever seen on either side”.

    Credit: Sgt Paul Randall RLC

    Mr Lawes left the Army to the reserves in January 1946 and was discharged on 31 March that year.

    His final release testimonial reads: “A reliable and honest man who has been employed as a driver. He has a good mechanical knowledge and can be trusted to do his work well and conscientiously.”

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday

    You may like...