BORN when Gladstone was Prime Minister, Thomas the tortoise has survived everything since 1882, even Nazi bombs.

But Thomas, now Britain’s oldest resident, hid a secret under its shell for most of those 130 years - being a female.

The tortoise was pulled from the rubble of a bomb-hit house in Essex in 1945. But it was only when owner June Le Gallez of Guernsey inherited Thomas in 1978 that a vet found the truth, after 96 years. ‘People suggested I rename him Tomasina, but I thought it would be cruel to change it,’ said Mrs Le Gallez, 54, adding: ‘She isn’t slowing down. People can’t believe how active she is.’

Mrs Le Gallez, 54, who cares for the reptile at her home on the Channel Island of Guernsey, added: ‘Thomas is very much part of the family. I have pictures with her when I was as young as two. ‘Because she is so old we thought we would have lost her by now but she is tough. I sometimes wonder if she will outlive me. She’s always been very big for her age. Thomas used to live and run in the garden when she was younger but now we keep her in the house and she bumbles around.

‘She is just a massive part of the family and everyone is very fond of her. She really races around when she wants to. She’s really fast.’                             –MO