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Are Robert and Jim at 95 the oldest twins in Black Country?

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 07, 2014

By John Workman

  • ABOVE: Happy 95th birthday as twin brothers Robert (left) and Jim Fletcher celebrate their milestone.

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BIRTHDAYS are joyous occasions made even more special if shared with someone else within your family - as twin brothers Robert and Jim Fletcher have been doing since 1919. On Saturday (August 2) they celebrated their 95th birthday.

Jim's son, also named Jim, reckons their long life is down to a little luck during the Second World War, and keeping themselves busy, even up to the present day.

Both enjoyed a hearty meal out with their respective families to crown a memorable day.

Robert, who lives in Greets Green, has two sons, Robert and Paul, and a daughter Anne. His wife Edith (née Spencer) died in 1978.

Jim, who lives in Coseley, has one son Jim and two grandsons, Andrew and Stephen. Jim's wife Gladys sadly died in August 2011 aged 89.

It was a particularly poignant day for D-Day veteran Jim who heard that his papers had just been submitted to the French government to be considered for their highest military award, the Legion of Honour.

President Francois Hollande has approved the decision to award every surviving British soldier who took part in the liberation of France during the Second World War the medal to mark the 70th anniversary this year of the Normandy landings in 1944.

"He was over the moon when he heard the news," said son Jim.

Robert and Jim both started out together on the morning of Saturday, August 2, 1919, around 7.45am.

They were born at 48 Harwood Street, Lambert's End, West Bromwich, a converted farmhouse where several other families lived at the same time.

Their birthplace was a link with West Bromwich's past where farming had been an important industry right up to the end of the 19th century.

They were two of seven children born to Robert and Ethel Fletcher. The others were Arthur, Gordon (who died just after birth), Ron, Gilbert and Ethel who tragically died when a candle set fire to her hair.

The twins' father Robert, who served during the Great War, worked on the farm site as a cooper.

As young lads Robert and Jim made ice cream, with the cream/milk coming from the barrels, which they sold at fairgrounds, in the streets on their ice cream bicycle, and in pubs as far away as the Navigation Inn at Friar Park.

At the age of 14 the twins were working as tea boys and making breakfast for 200 navvies, then later on they both began work as bricklayers.

Their war exploits are stories in their own right. But a brief resumé is as follows.

Robert served as a driver with the RASC and drove missions to the Maginot Line before repatriation at Dunkirk. He married Edith in 1940. He then volunteered for The Shropshire Light Infantry but was seconded back to the RASC and drove all kinds of army equipment around Britain, including anti aircraft guns, searchlights and most important of all Navy rum.

In 1942 he was sent to North Africa to drive for the 8th Army, and then while fighting in Italy he suffered a serious bayonet injury and was sent back to Blighty to recover.

Jim joined The Royal Warwickshire Regiment and as part of the BEF was evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches. Back in England his Battalion re-formed and he was posted to Scotland as a dispatch rider. On April 12, 1941, Jim married Gladys at Christ Church, Coseley, and son Jim was born in November 1943. But after her husband was taken prisoner on June 7, 1944, during the Invasion of Normandy, Gladys did not see him again until 1946.

Back in Civvy Street the twin brothers returned to the building trade, working for A J Smith of West Bromwich.

In the 1950's they set up their own business and one of their first contracts was with Mr Richardson of Tividale who introduced them to Sid Sheldon, the owner of Rattle Chain Brickworks, and thereafter they helped build the new phase of post-war housing estates.

In turn they were introduced to the Duport Group and were given a contract, including an extension at Vono Ltd, that was to last more than 50 years.

Jim retired at the age of 72, leaving the contract in the capable hands of son Jim and grandson Andrew.

Robert retired as a bricklayer at the age of 75 years, but according to his son Paul he still enjoys working on little jobs.

Are Robert and Jim the oldest twins in the Black Country? If you know anyone who can beat this record write to us at The Bugle, Bugle House, 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL, or email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or log on to www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk

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  • Helenmallen1  |  August 07 2014, 5:47PM

    Nice to see my Great Uncle Jim and his Twin brother Bob in the bugle fantastic men with some great stories to tell!

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