Great-grandfather Ron Shelley had confided to care home staff he had longed for years to take to the skies in a fire-powered aircraft.
His wish became a reality earlier this month when he took off from York Racecourse after staff organised the trip as an early present ahead of his 99th birthday in September.
Widower Ron said: “I thought it would be a thrilling one-off experience, a once in a life-time trip, so I’m seizing the chance while I still can.”
Ron retired as a sergeant after an accomplished career with the British Army, and was awarded a number of medals in recognition of his bravery.
He supported the D-Day landings 77 years ago working as a wireless operator tasked with sending out false messages to ‘confound and confuse’ the enemy.
Ron successfully averted a German attack by tricking them into believing the British forces had 3,000 soldiers stationed in the area.
It was one of many forms of deception the allied forces used before the 1944 invasion of Normandy to fool the Nazis.
He said: “It worked. My dummy messages, which I sent from a radio truck, led the enemy to believe that there was a whole division of 3,000 men, too many to take on, so they didn’t attack.”
He landed in France when he was just 22, and narrowly escaped death in the city of Caen after being attacked by a barrage of mortar attacks.
He was also involved with the famous Battle of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Ron was born in India in 1922, where his father was posted with the British Army and came back to England when he was three years old and grew up in London.
He has enjoyed a life full of travel and adventure with army postings all over the world and continued his passion for radio as an amateur radio enthusiast.
While in Hong Kong, he was in contact with the famed H.M.S. Amethyst which was caught up in the Chinese Civil War and featured in the 1957 film The Yangtze Incident starring Richard Todd.
Later Ron met and married the love of his life, Thelma, and they had two sons. He now has five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
They lived in Fulford, near York, and for a while they ran a pub together.
Sadly, Thelma died in 2018 after 64 years of ‘wonderful marriage’ and he eventually moved into Connaught Court where he currently resides.
Staff at Connaught Court care home where he is a resident say he is remarkably active and youthful.
Fran Tagg, an activities coordinator for Connaught Court said: “Ron is a modest gentleman who is well known at our Home for his adventurous spirit.
“When he mentioned to us how he’d love to go up in a hot air balloon we were keen to create the opportunity for him. We’re very grateful to The Association of Friends of Connaught Court whose generosity has made this possible. It’s a dream come true for Ron.”