Veteran celebrates 99th birthday

World War II veteran Sydney Ireland.

A World War II veteran, living at Huis Lückhoff in Rondebosch, celebrated his 99th birthday with his family on Monday.

Sydney Ireland, born on March 9 1921, joined the army on May 27 1940 at the age of 19, after briefly working in the telegraph department at the post office.

Mr Ireland and his family lived on a dairy farm in Parow but moved to Green Point when he started school, as there were only Afrikaans schools in the area at the time. After completing his matric at Cape Town High School, he started working at the post office where he learnt Morse code as part of his job.

He volunteered for the army where he first worked as a signaller and later fought in the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt during World War II.

Sergeant Ireland also celebrated his 21st birthday in Egypt. On his return from the war in 1945, he was seconded to the air force, where he worked as a wireless operator.

“There was no other way to communicate with the pilots in those days. I was always with the soldiers, walking behind them to relay messages,” he said.

He later returned to the post office, but admits he took a while to adjust to civilian life.

“I never wanted to speak about my time in the war as I had some bad experiences — it was memories that I just put behind me,” he said.

In 1947, Mr Ireland married his wife, Olga. In 1948 they had their first child, Jennifer, followed by another daughter, Barbara, and son, Geoffrey.

His wife died in 2001 and Mr Ireland went on to live with his daughter Barbara Rous for 15 years, before moving into Huis Lückhoff in 2014.

Mr Ireland said he was thankful to Barbara for everything she had done for him over the years.

“I don’t know what I would do without her. She is always there for me,” he said.

He now spends his days reading and following sports from cricket, rugby to golf. And he only stopped driving before his 98th birthday.

Ms Rous said growing up they knew their father was in the army but he never spoke to them about it. She said it was when he moved in and her sons started asking questions that he slowly started to open up about it.

She said documentaries had been made about her father, but they had yet to be released.

Ms Rous said her father was still very positive and upbeat about everything.

“He has aches and pains, but he is always happy and never complains. When we go to the mall, there are always random people just buying him things — he really has a way with people,” she said.

Ms Rous thanked the staff of Huis Lückhoff for looking after her father and said they went above and beyond to keep him happy.