What’s the secret to living to one hundred years old?

“Happiness” according to World War Two veteran Mr Walter Bishop, who saw in his hundredth year on Saturday November 25.

Mr Bishop lives alone in a cosy bungalow which is regularly visited by members of his family, including his granddaughter Mrs Claire Sibley. He has 10 children, 33 grandchildren, and 68 great-grandchildren.

Today, the bungalow is plastered wall-to-wall with congratulatory birthday cards, 81 in total.

When asked what the secret is to stay alive for a whole century, Mr Bishop looked me dead in the eyes and said “It’s a simple one: Just keep breathing” which resulted in cackles of laughter.

“He’s just always been happy,” Mrs Sibley said, and Mr Bishop responded, “You’ve just got to keep on smiling. Smile and the world smiles with you."

Mr Bishop was born in November 1923 and spent his early years in a boy’s home called Fegan’s for “waifs and strays.”

“We used to skate around the playground and play tag,” he said. “There were 150 boys there and I was 120, and I always say I’m going to live till that age.”

After working on farms for a number of years, Mr Bishop joined the RAF for six months, then later in 1944 the Royal Navy.

When questioned what it was like during World War Two, Mr Bishop responded “I enjoyed my time serving, when you’re with other shipmates you just put up with it.”

Nicknamed “Bomber” by the crew, Mr Bishop worked as a minesweeper. “Minesweeping was the most dangerous job in the navy, and I’ve got my own special medal to match that.”

Mr Bishop then showed me a medal that was bestowed upon him in 1945 for his extraordinary efforts as a minesweeper.

A member of the Royal Navy Patrol attended Mr Bishop’s birthday party on Saturday and brought a commemorative flag to celebrate one of their oldest officers.

Moving to Reading in the 1960s, Mr Bishop lived in Tilehurst for 40 years. During this time, he worked at the Gillette factory on Basingstoke Road and also as a gardener.

When asked what his favourite decade was, Mr Bishop responded “They’ve all been good ones. I've had a wonderful life with family all around me.”

Mr Bishop worked and drove his own car until he was 98 years old. “He’s got his own fan club at Dobbie’s Garden Centre,” Mrs Sibley told me. “People come on Fridays just to see him, and he takes his harmonica.

“He gets lots of kisses and cuddles from various ladies. He’s very popular. It’s really special.”

Mr Bishop then performed, flawlessly, a tune for me on his harmonica which he has played for 90 years. He bought his first one when he was ten for the equivalent of two pence.

“He’s never changed,” Mrs Sibley said. “He’s always happy and has a smile on his face. He always told us to have a good work ethic and keep moving.”