Britain’s oldest twins mark 103rd birthday and reveal lovely secret to their long life

Elma Harris and Thelma Barratt, who grew up in Stockport, were reunited after a long gap for a surprise party.

Britain's oldest twins have celebrated their 103rd birthday - and say a love of food and bedtime tipple is the secret to their long lives.

Elma Harris was born half an hour before her sister Thelma Barratt in August 1919.

The centenarians have lived through three monarchs, a world war and even two global pandemics.

And Thelma joked that her longevity was down to her love of food, while Elma Harris enjoys a brandy and lemonade - served in a brandy glass without ice.

Sisters Elma and Thelma were reunited for a party Credit: Tony Barratt / SWNS

The sisters, who now live in different counties but stay in touch over the phone, were reunited for a surprise party organised by their families on their birthdays of August 3.

Asked the secret to their long lives, Elma, who lives in Stockport, said: “I like my food, put it that way.”

While Thelma, who now lives in Kirkham, near Preston, answered: “I have a brandy and a lemonade at night.”

At the age of 14 the sisters, who attended Alexandra Park School in Stockport, started working as packers and labellers at Smiths Crisps after asking if there were any jobs going on the way home from school.

They gave up work when they got married at 21 - just three months apart.

Elma married Bill Hewitt, a joiner and Thelma married Joseph Barratt, a hatter, just as World War Two started.

Thelma's husband was captured in Italy and became a prisoner of war at the same camp as Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, famed for losing his legs while attempting aerobatics.

Thelma and Elma at school Credit: Tony Barratt / SWNS

In 1959, Thelma and Joe became the landlord and landlady of a pub in their hometown of Stockport, but left when their son Tony, now 63, was a few months old.

Asked what was the best part of being twins, the sister said it was always having each other for company.

Elma said: "You didn't need pals. We always had each other."

Elma - who has had two children, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren – and Thelma, who has had two children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren – chat on the phone once a week.

And when they get together, the widows still enjoy trips to the seaside.

Thelma's son Tony said it was even nicer to bring the pair together this year as the coronavirus pandemic had kept them apart for recent birthdays.

He said: “It was quite special to get the sisters together, they’ve both been through quite a lot in their long lives, but family has always been foremost in their minds.”