EVEN among the small number of people who have made it to the grand old age of 103 there is something special about Horace D’Arcy.

The pensioner, who celebrated his birthday on Monday, still looks after himself at his Southbourne flat, despite problems with his sight, and says he is enjoying life as much as ever before.

“I have been very lucky. I don’t drink or smoke, although I used to sell cigarettes, and I only gave up playing tennis when I was 70, because no one wanted to play with the old boy any more. I’m enjoying my life and I have a lot of very good friends, and I hope to live a lot longer,” he said.

Born in Guernsey in 1911, Mr D’Arcy lived in Mauritius during his youth, as well as less exotic locations including Salisbury and Parkstone, as his father was in the army.

Eventually the family settled in Bournemouth, and he went to Stourfield County School and studied to become an electrical engineer, however his first job was as a printer.

During the Second World War he was given a chance to use his engineering training, but eventually, unhappy with a posting, he sought a commission and served with the 4th Infantry Division as a signals officer.

He fought in the North African campaign before taking part in the invasion of Italy, travelling as far north as the River Po. Then, posted to Palestine for a break from combat, his unit was suddenly re-directed to Greece for the final months of the war.

Back in Southbourne, Mr D’Arcy took over the management of a friend’s tobacconist store in Seabourne Road, Fisherman’s Walk, which he ran from 1946 to 1968.

He met his late wife Jean Walker at Christchurch Tennis Club, and the pair married in 1950. They later joined West Hants Tennis Club where Mrs D’Arcy played at county level, while her husband captained the veterans’ doubles team.

After retirement, they enjoyed travelling widely, visiting relatives in New Zealand, and riding both Concorde and the Orient Express.

Developments Horace has lived through

  • 1912 – The first parachute jump from an aircraft is made by US army captain Albert Berry.
  • 1928 – Pre-sliced bread is invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder.
  • 1936 – The Parker brothers license board game Monopoly for release outside of the USA.
  • 1948 – The Frisbee is invented by Walter Frederick Morrison and Warren Franscioni.
  • 1959 – The Barbie doll is released for sale.
  • 1961 – Russian Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space.
  • 1968 – The first computer mouse is invented by Douglas Engelbart.
  • 1979 – The Sony Walkman is released.
  • 1985 – Bill Gates launches the first retail version of Windows.
  • 1996 – Dolly the sheep is the first cloned mammal to be born.