A RAF navigator has made her way on the top to become the oldest person ever in Britain to have a sex change surgery at 81, when she transformed from James to Ruth Rose this summer, all thanks to NHS surgeons.

"I went in for a hip and knee replacement or I faced life in a wheelchair. My doctor had said I should have the gender ­transformation operation, but I thought I was too old. But the surgeons wouldn't have done it if they didn't think I could go through with it. I am the oldest person to have it done," said Rose.

Charity worker Rose of Newhaven, East Sussex longed to be a female ever since she was nine, and her wish came alive this summer following a NHS surgery.

"I'm now fully equipped. I'm enjoying the fact that I have made the transition. My main thing in life isn't going around saying I am a lady now. But not a day had gone by since I was nine when I didn't think I was in the wrong body. I always felt I was a woman," said Rose in a candid interview with the Sunday People.

Prior to the surgery, Rose was a divorced father of three and grandfather of four.

She started an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering and joined the RAF at 23.

In 1961, despite carrying a secret desire for change, Rose got married. The couple lasted 42 years before parting ways through an amicable divorce.

"I did not tell my wife about my feelings. I thought if I got married those feelings would go away. But they didn't. We are a close-knit family and they are tolerant. But my decision to go for gender realignment surgery came as a shock to them," said Rose.

Rose's journey towards womanhood began four years ago when she started living as Ruth and began a female hormone therapy.

"I stopped going to events as a man four years ago. When I was married, I was living half as a man and half as a woman, dressing up to see friends but a man at home," said Rose.

The finishing touch was added this summer when she had her male organs removed in July.

Despite expressing contentment at her new look and life as a woman, Rose says her only regret following the gender ­realignment surgery is that she wishes she had bigger boobs.

The entire NHS operation and treatment has cost Rose a whopping £4,000.

Rose was admitted in the hospital for five days following the surgery. She admits to being in pain and says it took six-to-eight weeks to completely heal, yet she was delighted with the results.

Speaking candidly about the physical transformation she underwent Rose said:

"It would have been ridiculous for me to ask for a vagina so I could go sleeping around. It would be inappropriate. I was offered it, but turned it down. The intimate sides are as private as a woman would want. I don't at my age expect to have a sexual partner and wouldn't know what to do with it if I did. It's not about having a sexual ­relationship. But it's nice to feel you have sexuality. It's nice to feel feminine."

Rose defends her decision, describing the consequences of living a life with an emotional battle raging within.

"A lot of people think it's just a case of chopping it off, but it's much more than that. Some people are ­assessed for eight to ten years by psychiatrists. The rate of suicides for people waiting for transgender operations is seven times higher than normal. People are living lives of despair. The surgeons I have spoken to say they have saved hundreds of lives by stopping people from committing suicide.

"You get people who can't keep slim or who smoke and have all the related health issues – but the NHS will still treat them. They would operate on someone who had a great bulge on their cheek. It might not be malignant, but it could cause ­embarrassment. Well, a transgender ­operation is similar to that."