Shoreham war hero celebrates 106th birthday with family

A Shoreham war hero who was interviewed by Gary Lineker on TV has celebrated his 106th birthday with family.

William Earl recounted the story of the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy during the Second World War on Gary Lineker: My Grandad’s War on BBC One in 2019.

He also co-wrote the book Blood and Bandages with neighbour Liz Coward, telling the story of his time with the medical corps during the war.

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William was born in Sudbury on May 12, 1915, and was pleased to receive a card from The Queen for his 106th birthday, as well as a visit from his cousin Jim Ransome and wife Ingrid, who travelled from Colchester to be with him for his big day.

William Earl was pleased to receive a card from The Queen for his 106th birthday

Ingrid said: “He lives at home with his wife Judith. He isn’t very mobile but his brain and memory are phenomenal.”

William trained as a chemist’s assistant at Boots in London before being called up at the age of 25 to join a field ambulance with the Royal Army Medical Corps, leaving his wife-to-be Mary Standen behind.

He trained as a nursing orderly and was responsible for collecting, treating and evacuating the wounded from the front line. He says he never considered himself in the Army, but ‘of the Army’.

William married Mary in November 1941 and their first son, David, was born the following spring. He first saw action in Enfidaville in April 1942 with the Eighth Army. Within weeks, he was involved in a highly dangerous mission to recover the injured from No Man’s Land.

At the end of the North African Campaign, William joined a German dressing station to deal with the wounded before being assigned to join the Anglo-American Fifth Army, which was preparing to invade Italy.

When peace finally came to Italy in May 1945, William raced to beat the New Zealanders to Venice. They won and within two months, William was on his way home, after three years away.

William was demobbed in July 1946 and returned to Boots, where he stayed until he retired. In 1952, William and Mary had a second son, Michael, and four years later, the family moved to Shoreham for health reasons.

William set up Shoreham Camera Club and joined the management committees of Shoreham Community Centre and Shoreham Horticultural Society.

He also joined the Mario Lanza Society and became chairman in 1980, then trustee of the Mario Lanza Foundation in 1986. Mary died the same year, after 43 years of happy marriage. Sadly, their children also died within the next seven years.

William married his second wife, Judith Deak, in April 1992 and together, they toured the world.