Thomas the female tortoise celebrates 130th birthday after surviving the Blitz

Image credit ~ M & Y Agency

Born when Gladstone was Prime Minister, Thomas the tortoise has survived everything since 1882, even Nazi bombs.

But Thomas, now Britain’s oldest resident, hid a secret under its shell for most of those 130 years – being a female.

The tortoise was pulled from the rubble of a bomb-hit house in Essex in 1945. But it was only when owner June Le Gallez of Guernsey inherited Thomas in 1978 that a vet found the truth, after 96 years.

She was Born when William Gladstone was in Downing Street and Queen Victoria was on the throne, the animal is now celebrating its 130th birthday.

The longevity of the Hermann’s tortoise is all the more remarkable as it had to be pulled from the rubble of a house during the Blitz in the Second World War, but went on to see in another seven decades and counting.

Owner June Le Gallez, 54, who cares for Thomas at her home on the Channel Island of Guernsey, said: "Thomas is very much part of the family. I have pictures with her when I was as young as two.

"Because she is so old we thought we would have lost her by now but she is tough. I sometimes wonder if she will outlive me. She's always been very big for her age.

‘Thomas used to live and run in the garden when she was younger but now we keep her in the house and she bumbles around.

Mrs Le Gallez inherited Thomas from her cousin Grace Hilditch in 1978.

Ms Hilditch had been given Thomas in 1922 as a present from her father Harry, who was friends with a reptile keeper at London Zoo.

When they adopted Thomas the keeper informed Harry she was 40 years old putting her birth date at 1882.

Thomas then lived happily with Ms Hilditch for 56 years at her home in Ilford, Essex, which was bombed in 1945 and a warden managed to rescue her from the rubble.

After Ms Hilditch had fallen ill and later die,She was given to Mrs Le Gallez and husband Richard

June said: ‘The journey from Essex to Guernsey with Thomas was a rather funny one.

‘Staff on the train asked me if I wanted anything to eat and drink and if Thomas wanted any lettuce leaves.’
The oldest recorded tortoise in Britain was Timmy, a Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise who was believed to be 160 years old when she died in 2004 at Powderham Castle, Devon.
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