A former prisoner of war has celebrated his 100th birthday in style after being rescued from a failing care home.
Charles Saunders reached the milestone on Saturday at his new residence – the Royal British Legion’s (RBL) Maurice House care home in Broadstairs, Kent.
A party was being thrown for him and attended by soldiers from his former regiment, the Welsh Guards, in which he served during the Second World War as part of the 2nd battalion in Boulogne, France, in May 1940.
Birmingham-born Mr Saunders was just 21 when he enlisted and spent some four years in Lamsdorf camp in Poland after being captured by German troops.
He was released at the end of the war, got married and moved to Broadstairs in 1952, working as a decorator and handyman.
After his wife Joan died around 30 years ago, aged 70, followed by their 50-year-old son in 2001, Mr Saunders threw himself into his music, playing the viola in the Thanet Light Orchestra and the double bass in the Broadstairs and St Peter’s Concert Band.
Charles Saunders with his birthday message from the Queen (Gary Moyes)
He moved into Fourwinds residential care home in Ramsgate when he became frail but it was put into special measures earlier this year after being rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Inspectors found widespread failings. Residents were not being cared for properly, were “lonely and bored”, staff were not fully trained and complaints were not dealt with, according to a report.
The home had not had a registered manager – someone legally responsible for care – for two years. The home was understaffed, medicines were not handled properly and the quality of food was poor, the CQC said.
Carer Maryanna Richardson – a trained member of the public who accompanies CQC inspectors on visits – met Mr Saunders and saw how fondly he remembered his time with his battalion. Her husband was coincidentally from the same regiment, so he contacted them which saw the RBL step in to help.
Mr Saunders with (L-R) Major Oliver Richardson, Sergeant Stuart Lang and Colonel Tony Davis (Gary Moyes)
Mr Saunders moved into Maurice House in time for Remembrance Day and is now one of 47 veterans and spouses the charity cares for there.
He said: “I love living here because the staff are first class, the rooms are first class, it’s like a palace compared to the last place I was in.
“I don’t feel a day over 48.”
Celebrations at Maurice House care home in Broadstairs, Kent (Gary Moyes)
The veteran is known for readily recounting tales of his capture in great detail.
He still reads from a pocket book he used during imprisonment to keep his spirits up. Inside are meticulously dated records of letters and gifts he received, as well as poems he transcribed for inspiration.
Dawn Crosby, Mr Saunders’ key worker at Maurice House, said he was a “character” and loved taking part in activities.
Manager Tracy Tremble said: “We’re excited to share this special birthday with Charles and are proud to offer quality care to a veteran who gave so much for his country. It’s a pleasure to know that he will spend this Christmas surrounded by new friends.”