Dambusters dance partner Phyllis, who took up cruise holidays in her 90s, marks 100th birthday

Phyllis Hill, of Wyberton, celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends.
Phyllis Hill, of Wyberton, celebrating her 100th birthday with family and friends.

A Boston woman who danced with the Dambusters in her 20s and took up cruise holidays in her 90s has celebrated her 100th birthday.

Phyllis Hill, of Wyberton, was born in Hospital Lane, Boston, on September 30, 1918 – six weeks before the end of the First World War.

Her father, George Footter, had served in the conflict in the Army Veterinary Corps, looking after horses, before being medically discharged due to a burst stomach ulcer which saw him spent 18 months in hospital.

Early memories for Phyllis included watching the lamps being lit by hand in the town centre (the housing estates would be left in darkness), visits from the knife and scissor grinder, and moving home to Wyberton by horse and cart (with furniture on board).

The Second World War, though, would give rise to a particular set of enduring memories – dancing with members of the Dambusters at Boston’s Assembly Rooms.

Phyllis would attend dances at the venue with her husband Harry, with whom she worked in food production during the war.

“My husband said ‘I don’t mind you dancing with her, but bring her back,” she said.

At this point, Phyllis only knew the men as RAF personnel stationed in the county. It would not be until after they had completed their daring mission their full significance was revealed.

“My husband was always proud that I danced with those boys,” she said, describing them as ‘lovely lads’.

More recent memories for the great-grandmother stem from cruise holidays, an interest she took up at the age of 90 and has only recently stopped.

“It’s not everybody who starts cruising when they are 90 and have 10 years of it,” she said.

When asked what advice she might offer to younger generations, Phyllis (who enjoys a sherry in the morning and a whiskey at night) said: “Make your life as happy as you can. You can’t have it handed to you on a plate.”