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Reuters' oldest member pensioner turns 100

Samuel Burgess (photo), the oldest member pensioner of Reuters Pension Fund, turns 100 tomorrow.

He joined Reuters in London as a 14-year-old messenger boy in 1929 when one of his duties was to jump up and down in the street outside the office. He was employed to deliver stock and commodity information to subscribers in the City of London. But when the head of Reuters, Sir Roderick Jones, was leaving the office in Carmelite Street, Blackfriars, young Burgess had to run out of the building and jump on the rubber pressure pads in the street that were used to count the number of vehicles passing before changing the traffic lights. This trick ensured that the red light would change to green immediately and Jones’s chauffeur-driven limousine would be spared the inconvenience of having to stop.

From delivering financial information and jumping up and down for the benefit of the boss, Burgess became a press telegraphist.

Called up in the Second World War, he joined the Royal Navy in which he served as a radio operator aboard HMS Ramilles, a First World War battleship. HMS Ramilles took part in operations in the Mediterranean, including Egypt and Malta, and the Atlantic convoys, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. She fired 1,000 rounds in support of the D-Day landings in Normandy.

The ship had many near misses with torpedoes but took only one hit from a Japanese submarine in the Indian Ocean where she also shelled the Vichy French-controlled island of Madagascar, aiding in its surrender. Later she was stationed in Algiers.

“There he met, fell in love and married my mother Henriette,” said his son Bob Burgess*, who also worked for Reuters.

After demobilisation in 1945, Burgess returned to Reuters, again as a press telegraphist, moving to the wire room at Comtel - forerunner of Reuters Economic Services - for the transmission of economic news. In the late 1960s he was one of a pioneering team trained to use video terminals, a revolutionary concept at that time, to transmit news instead of teleprinters and punched tape machines. He retired in 1978 after 49 years of service.

“Since then he has had a long and happy retirement,” his son said. “He still lives at home with his wife [94] and enjoys spending time with his children, 11 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

His 100th birthday party has been arranged for Saturday when more than 60 family members and friends are planning to help him celebrate.

His late brother James Burgess did similar work with Reuters and served even longer - 51 years - before retiring at the age of 65.

Samuel Burgess is the oldest living RPF member pensioner. Two widows of deceased members are aged over 100.

*Bob Burgess retired in 2003 as senior technical training consultant. He began his Reuters career in 1970 as a street mechanic, so called because he looked after some of the hundreds of Creed teleprinters installed in newspaper offices in Fleet Street. He then went on to become a senior technician and a technical instructor, with foreign assignments in technical management roles in Cairo, Bahrain and Cyprus.

PHOTOS: Samuel Burgess, photographed in June this year, and at his wedding in Algiers during the Second World War. ■