Posted 8th November 2022

NorseCare tenant Betty celebrates 109th birthday 

NorseCare’s oldest tenant has celebrated her 109th birthday, surrounded by family and friends at our Barley Court housing care scheme in Costessey, receiving a letter from His Majesty the King. This letter will be some of the first sent out by His Majesty to celebrate a life well lived since the passing of his Queen Elizabeth II.

Mary Biggs, known as Betty, marked the milestone with her family, friends and staff.

Betty was born on 23 October 1913, in Airmyn, in East Yorkshire, and has led a full life filled with memories.

She says that she can remember being moved into a cellar as the Zeppelins flew overhead during the First World War. She also vividly recalls hearing Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declare war on Germany on 3 September 1939 – an event that had a big effect on her life.

After meeting her husband, John Henry Biggs, as a 16-year-old, the couple married in 1933 and enjoyed a happy marriage until the start of the war; when her husband joined the Eighth Army and fought in the North African and Italian campaigns.

But not long into the mission, Mr Biggs was captured and shipped to Italy, where he was held as a prisoner of war and was declared missing and believed dead for two years.

Betty said: “My husband was a driver in the desert in Libya and served from 1940 until the end of the war.

“When he was missing, the Red Cross tried to help me trace him. It was a horrible time, but I had just had a child – I had to get on with it.”

Mr Biggs escaped and joined the partisans making their way to safety in France and was awarded a military medal for Bravery in the Field.

And while her husband was off at war, Betty – who had one son, David – was helping evacuees, providing many families with a loving and caring home – including a mother, Florence, and her three-week-old baby, Barbara.

“I took in Florence and Barbara after they were bombed out of London,” Betty said.

“I did it because I had the pram and cot because of David. During the war we were so short of everything, we just helped one another.

“We’ve kept in touch over the years, and I have been to Canada (where the family eventually moved to) to see Barbara.”

After her husband died in 1992, Betty moved to Norfolk to be near her son – who also sadly passed away a few years ago – and settled into Saffron Housing’s Barley Court housing with care scheme in Costessey, where NorseCare provides care and support to tenants in 60 flats.

She still loves talking about her family – including her two grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, and is also a much-loved member of our extended family at Barley Court.

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