Sky-dive 'wonderful', says great-granny

AN 84-year-old great-grandmother is thought to be the oldest person to complete a sky-dive at an East Anglian airfield.

James Mortlock

A GREAT-grandmother denied the chance of taking part in wartime food aid flights following a tragic accident has been dreaming of the adventure she missed for more than 60 years.

Daredevil 84-year-old Elsie Owen said it was one of the biggest regrets of her life that she was unable to take part in the missions to Holland after she and her colleagues in the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) were barred following an air crash in which several civilians were killed.

But now the plucky pensioner says she has come as close as she ever will to the mercy flights - by jumping out of a plane two miles above the East Anglian countryside and parachuting to the ground.

Mrs Owen, from Bury St Edmunds, a bowel cancer survivor, was taking part in a jump from Old Buckenham airfield in Norfolk to raise money for charities close to her heart.

Speaking to the EADT only minutes after the successful drop, a delighted Mrs Owen said she wanted to do the tandem dive all over again: “It was absolutely brilliant. The view and the clouds were wonderful - I thought I was in another land.”

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She said her age was no barrier: “I was very calm - it was only actually jumping out of the plane that was a bit daunting. The rest was wonderful and it went so quickly. We jumped at 12,000 feet and were in freefall for about 7,000 but it seemed the parachute was open almost as soon as we jumped.

“It was such an exhilarating feeling. I have never done anything like this before and would urge anyone who has thought about it to do it.”

Mrs Owen said her long-standing dream had finally been realised: “During the war when the lads were going off on flights I used to think I would have loved to have been a rear gunner and gone off with them. And I just missed food aid flights to Holland with the NAAFI when they stopped us civilians going.

“I was so looking forward to that but this has helped to make up for it.”

So far, Mrs Owens, who two years ago was successfully treated for bowel cancer at Bury's West Suffolk Hospital, has raised almost £1,500 for the unit's colorectal stoma care nursing fund and the Big C cancer and research care for sufferers in north Suffolk and Norfolk.

Bosses at the airfield said the daredevil pensioner, who has two children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, was among the oldest to complete a sky dive at the site.

Anyone who wants to add to Mrs Owen's fundraising tally should call 01284 761042.

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