A 99-year-old war hero has pledged to help future generations in Croydon, with an appeal to help fund new play facilities for sick children at a hospital.

Harry Winter, from south Croydon, will be turning 100 tomorrow (May 21) and has requested no birthday presents.

Your Local Guardian: Harry and wife Josie (image: Croydon health service NHS trust)Harry and wife Josie (image: Croydon health service NHS trust)

Instead, he has asked for donations to help fund play spaces and playgrounds at Rainbow Children’s Unit at Croydon University Hospital to care for young people with cancer and other illnesses.

Harry is one of only five surviving members of the British Royal Air Force squadron who flew Halifax Bombers during World War II.

He was shot down at night during his 19th mission in 1943 and was held as a prisoner of war until he escaped two years later.

Your Local Guardian: Harry in RAF uniform in 1943 (images: Croydon health service NHS trust)Harry in RAF uniform in 1943 (images: Croydon health service NHS trust)

The Rainbow Children’s Unit at Croydon University Hospital is home to a children’s cancer unit, surgical ward and critical care facilities.

Harry said: “I may not be as fast on my feet as I once was, but I know how important it is for kids to have fun.

“Especially when children are feeling poorly, knowing that doctors and nurses are able to give the best care in this brand new unit while donating just a few pounds can help to take the stress away for young people, can make a world of difference.”

Harry, who is a dad of two, was one of the first people to visit the Rainbow Children’s Unit, which officially opened to patients on May 10.

Sarah McLaggan, Head of Nursing for Children’s Services at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust said: “Our children’s teams look after more than 50,000 young people every year, and our brand new unit means we can now care for even more of the borough’s sickest children much closer to home.

Your Local Guardian: Harry and Sarah (image: Croydon health service NHS trust)Harry and Sarah (image: Croydon health service NHS trust)

“It’s wonderful to have support from heroes like Harry who is still very young at heart and determined to help the people around him, as he has done so for a generation.”

With the support of the Croydon Health Charity, the ‘Power of Play’ aims to raise £150,000 to create new interactive play zones, provide toys and entertainment and fund sensory relaxation rooms for toddlers, children and teens.

The Surrey Freemasons have been helping the Croydon Health Charity to fundraise for the ‘Power of Play’ appeal.

Over the past six months, they have raised more than £10,000 through golf days, darts evenings and book sales, with a pledge to achieve another £20,000 to the appeal.

Harry, who is a Freemason himself, has personally donated £1,000 towards their total.

Nick Gras, a member of the Executive Team heading Surrey Freemasons, said: “We want to mark Harry’s very special day with as many Birthday cards from his friends and well-wishers in and around our community.

“Harry wants to make a difference and during his lifetime he has done just that; from working in a paper mill at age 14, to serving in the Home Guard before joining the Air Force.

“We will be celebrating Harry as he starts his next century year, but he has asked for no presents.

“Instead, just a card and giving what you can to a cause Harry cares so strongly about will make this proud war veteran a very happy man.”

An online fundraising page has been set up for people to show their support for Harry and the Power of Play appeal here