William Alfred ButlerThis is the story of a member of the Royal Corps of Signals from World War II:
Bill Butler (William Alfred Butler), Royal Signals - Far East Prisoners of War, WWII
Born 29 December 1916 died 4 January 2014 aged 97 click here for Bill's Obituary
Its funny how things turn up, isn’t it. Early in 2013 I attended the funeral of an old Royal Signals colleague of my father’s down in Bournemouth. His name was Maynard Skinner and he had served with my father in Hong Kong and like him; he had been taken prisoner and served as a POW for over 3 ½ years. I have written about Maynard Skinner here on this web site.
At this funeral I met members of the family, but quite by chance afterwards I chatted to a brother and sister who had come to pay their respects, because their father had been a colleague of Maynard's. We got talking and the sister, Lizzie, mentioned that she had found another PoW from the Royal Signals still alive who also had served in Hong Kong.
Lizzie’s father, Harold Bates (who's war time story is also recorded on this web site), was also in the Royal Signals and when he died his papers were kept by her mum and when she died Lizzie she went through her mum’s papers and came across Bill's name and on a card from Bill. It just said "Bill Butler, Mablethorpe". So Lizzie looked up Bill's phone number and contacted him. Without that initial contact we would never have met Bill and discovered his wonderful story.
After our meeting in Bournemouth Lizzie made arrangements for us to visit Bill at his home in Mablethorpe on the coast of Lincolnshire.
We arrived at the seaside town of Mablethorpe in July 2013 and found Bill's bungalow a couple of streets back from the front. It was a small place in need of some care but Bill, at the age of 96 seemed to be quite comfortable. Bill welcomed us in and we gathered in the sitting room. On the walls of the room were photos and memorabilia from the war year.
Although Bill lives on his own he has friends who look out for him and one friend in particular comes to see him every day. As Bill says without him and his other friends he does know what it do. The British Legion to have looked after Bill and have provided him with his electric wheelchair which enables him to get out to the shops and see people and especially go to the pub where he meets his friends. Clearly he is very happy in his little bungalow. He says he won’t go into a home unless he has to.
We settled in and gathered around Bill and began to ask him about his war time experiences. I began by asking him if he knew some of some of the other Royal Signals servicemen who had been captured in Hong Kong. He said "Oh yeah, Jimmy Dignan and I were big pals." Lizzy asked about her dad and Monty Truscott. Bill continued, "Monty Truscott... Oh yeah, Monty, yeah? ...he was a lance-corporal in Bulford with me. He was a long distance runner" Bill remembered Harold Bates and he said he had kept in touch with Jean Bates after Harold had died. All this discussion reminded Bill of the Royal Signals Hong Kong Regiment reunions. Bill said “these reunions were something out of this world -from Friday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime it was out of this world it was”.
After a while Lizzy reminded Bill of the telephone conservation they had "when we spoke on the phone you said you had written a book." Oh yeah, pass me that bag... getting an A4 booklet out he said "That is my 13 years in the Signals" Bill went on “well, it all started with my wife watching a programme on TV. As a result I wrote about the Lisbon Maru and a lady read it. She said, “Ooh, I bet you’ve had an interesting life”, and I said, well, yeah. And so I sat down and just started to write that.With the help of a lady who sorted it out and typed it up. Bill showed up his biography. It had printed by the British Legion.
This is my record of the visit to meet Bill. He has also given me permission use his biography which I quote here.
Index (click to take you to a page or click on the menu list on the left hand side):
Off to North Africa!
Scarborough and Bulford
The Battle & Fall of Hong Kong
The Lisbon Maru
Japan & PoW Camp
End of the war in Japan
The long journey home
Home at last!
I hope you find this window into the past and the experiences of our WWII heroes of interest.