Death of wartime veteran Bill at 93

0
Have your say

OLD soldier William (Bill) Richardson, who has died aged 93, had a remarkable wartime career.

He was involved in the Dunkirk evacuation, served in North Africa as a Desert Rat and took part in the D-Day landings.

Bill was one of six children born to a long-established Lewes family and grew up in the town.

He excelled at sport and played at centre-half for Lewes at The Dripping Pan in the years before the Second World War.

Bill joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and at the outbreak of war was recruited to the 210 Sussex Field Company Royal Engineers.

Following Dunkirk, he saw action across the theatre of conflict in North Africa. He was one of the sappers who opened up the minefield before the decisive battle of El Alamein in 1942 – his unit being the first in and the last out.

The liberation of Europe saw Bill cross the Channel to France on a stormy night in June 1944 to take part in the landings on Gold Beach, Normandy.

The invasion force came under incessant shellfire and, in Bill’s own words, “there was shouting, murmuring of prayers and the sea a stream of red. There were bodies and injured everywhere.”

The Royal Engineers were one of the first on the scene at the tactically crucial Pegasus Bridge, and Bill saw fierce fighting at Bayeaux and Caen.

He served six years and 233 days with the colours and a total of 12 years and 199 days with the Territorial Army.

In civilian life before the war he had several jobs, including working for East Sussex County Council building roads, at the button factory in Barcombe Mills – and even sowing cabbages for a shilling (5p) a row.

It was while he was head barman at The Black Horse after being demobbed that he met his future wife Pat. They were married at St Pancras Church, Lewes, in January 1947 and 50 years later were guests at a Buckingham Palace garden party because they shared the same Golden Wedding year as The Queen and Prince Philip.

Bill worked for many years at The East Sussex Engineering Company, Phoenix Ironworks, before retiring from Bevan Funnel Reproduction Furniture Company.

He leaves a widow, two children, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.