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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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WWII hero who silenced Beatles reaches century

HE took to the skies to defend the country in the Second World War and he’s known in America as the man who silenced the Beatles – but on his 100th birthday he was enjoying a much calmer way of life.

Born 100 years ago yesterday, Cyril Spibey has enjoyed a long and exciting life but now spends his days in the tranquility of the South Lakes. On the day before his age hit triple figures, he was treated to a birthday bash at the Farmers Arms in Lowick.

Mr Spibey’s family surprised him with old friends he knew when he lived in Lancashire and memories from his days in Bomber Command.

Despite modestly describing his time with the Wellington and, later, Lancaster Bombers as “very unexciting”, he recalled having to make a crash landing on one occasion.

He also remembers successfully guiding his squadron back home in pitch darkness and despite the light on the airstrip having been turned off.

Mr Spibey said: “We were coming back once and I said ‘the runway is dead ahead’ and the others said ‘there are no lights’.”

When they called the airfield to get the lights switched back on, his navigational instincts were shown to be spot on.

Mr Spibey volunteered in 1941 and was called up to the squadron in 1943, where he attained the rank of warrant officer.

Either side of his stint as a navigator, he was in charge of more than 200 people at a cotton mill in Accrington where he famously threatened his staff with turning off the jukebox if they continued to scream when the Beatles were playing.

When he finally lost his patience with the screaming women in the mill, Mr Spibey unplugged the jukebox, prompting a mass walk-out.

The story saw him hit the headlines at home and across the pond, where he was dubbed “the man brave enough to silence The Beatles”.

Mr Spibey, who continued driving until he was 98, moved to the South Lakes six years ago to be nearer to his family and now lives at Hollow Oak Nursing Home at Haverthwaite. Son Gale Spibey, who lives near Arrad Foot with his wife Linda, said the party had been a big hit and “couldn’t have gone better”.

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