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Second World War veteran and choirmaster at St Nicholas Church in Linton turns 100

An army veteran and choirmaster who has just turned 100 says he can't wait to get back to conducting.

Robert Caudwell, from Blue Bell Hill, can play nearly every hymn from heart on the organ and has missed only one rehearsal since he joined St Nicholas Church in Linton 24 years ago.

Bob Caudwell, army veteran and choirmaster at St Nicholas Church in Linton, turned 100 last week
Bob Caudwell, army veteran and choirmaster at St Nicholas Church in Linton, turned 100 last week

Mr Caudwell, who reached his century on June 24, was born in Nottinghamshire, the son of a gardener, and started playing the organ aged 14.

He was called up to the army in 1940 and spent six years as an infantryman with the Liverpool Welsh Tank Regiment, serving in Egypt, North Africa, Greece and Sicily, where he scaled Mount Etna.

He conducted an army choir during the Second World War, with three concerts broadcast on the BBC.

"They introduced the choir to make the soldier forget what they saw. I'm sure it helped," Mr Caudwell said.

After the war, he worked as a maths, science and music teacher, gaining a professional diploma from the Royal Academy of Music and was awarded the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists.

Bob Caudwell, choirmaster and organist at St Nicholas Church in Linton, is pictured here with partner Margaret Howe on his ninetieth birthday
Bob Caudwell, choirmaster and organist at St Nicholas Church in Linton, is pictured here with partner Margaret Howe on his ninetieth birthday

He moved to Maidstone aged 76, to be closer to his son, after his wife Dorothy died. As well as being choirmaster at St Nicholas Church, he also plays the organ during the Sunday service, and used to play at other churches in the area.

During lockdown the nine members of the St Nicholas choir have not been able to meet but Mr Caudwell is excited to see them all again, when he can.

"I always have plans for them, I think that's why they hold on to me, I keep them busy, " the grandfather of two teenage boys said.

Churches will be open for prayer services from Saturday but singing will still be banned.

Asked what his favourite kind of music is, Mr Caudwell replied: "Classical stuff, not pop rubbish."

Bob Caudwell, choirmaster and organist at St Nicholas Church in Linton, turned 100 on June 24. He is pictured here on his ninetieth birthday
Bob Caudwell, choirmaster and organist at St Nicholas Church in Linton, turned 100 on June 24. He is pictured here on his ninetieth birthday

Mr Caudwell has spent lockdown playing the piano and going for short walks with his companion Margaret, a choir member, who he has been with for more than 17 years.

On his birthday, Mr Caudwell was visited by his family while neighbours stood outside his house serenading him, accompanied by two professional musicians who live nearby.

Rev Peter Callway, Rector at St Nicholas Church, paid tribute to the choirmaster's talent.

He said: "Bobby is an extremely accomplished musician. I think what struck me when I arrived here more than seven years ago was the high regard and love that the members of the congregation had for him.

"You don't get to lead a choir and be popular unless you're a man who can work with groups of people.

"He is very experienced and able to share his expertise. They dearly love him."

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