Veteran gets 'surprise of his life' when introduced to Joanna Lumley

Gilbert Clarke had an absolutely fabulous time meeting Joanna Lumley on Friday, July 2. 

Gilbert Clarke had an absolutely fabulous time meeting Joanna Lumley on Friday, July 2. - Credit: Alan Clarke

A former Harold Hill veteran attended the launch of a garden project and had the “surprise of his life” when he was introduced to Joanna Lumley.  

Gilbert Clarke, who now lives in Plaistow, had an “absolutely fabulous” time when he attended the launch of the Commonwealth and Gurkha Garden Project at St George's Garrison Church in Woolwich.   

According to the church, the garden project aims to transform land around its site to create space for “reflection, education and beauty”.  

The garden project will now begin a design review and fundraise ahead of starting the landscaping and planting.  

Reflecting on the event, which was held on July 2, Gilbert said: “It is nice to finally get a garden where people can come and reflect on the contribution that the people of the Commonwealth made during World War One and World War Two.

"I wish the project every success.” 

The 95-year-old veteran was invited by the founder of the Caribbean social forum, Pamela Franklin, who is also a trustee at St George's Garrison Church.  

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Gilbert, who was sat at the Jamaican High Commissioners table, said he had the surprise of his life when Pamela introduced Joanna Lumley to him.  

Joanna presented the Prince of Hyderabad certificate of recognition of his official patronage to the Panas Helping Hands charity, which distributed over 100,000 free meals to the NHS and the homeless during lockdown.  

Gilbert’s son, Alan Clarke, 62, said: “Joanna Lumley was amazing! My wife Elvan and I are already big fans of hers."

Alan said after Joanna gave her speech and presentation she didn’t “disappear” like many “other celebrities might have done”, instead hanging around to chat.  

Upon being introduced to Gilbert, Alan said: “Joanna sat around laughing and joking with dad and I was very impressed by the way she always remembered my dad's name. 

“As you can imagine, she was very popular with everyone and she was also being introduced to High Commissioners and Deputy High Commissioners from all over the Commonwealth, but after they had left, she continued to turn back to my dad and chat, asking him to tell her about ‘this or that’”.

READ MORE: Veterans virtually attend unveiling of Normandy memorial

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