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Help charity cherish our war vets

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War Vet: William Adams (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

As we remember those who sacrificed themselves to protect and secure our freedom, a thought should be spared for the charitable organisation that is supporting the few surviving veterans on the island.

The Bermuda War Veterans Association has been running on reserve funds and is making an appeal to the public to donate.

In-coming president William Adams, 90, explained that there are about half a dozen vets and widows of vets of the Second World War as well as a few veterans from other conflicts who benefit from funds donated through the charity.

“We are providing for 11 veterans and widows in Bermuda, all over 90 years old. We send them a monthly allowance to help them pay the bills — it’s not a lot but it is better than nothing.”

In his appeal letter, Mr Adams said: “Bermudians who volunteered for overseas service during the Second World War and the Korean War paid a terrible price for their service. While some lost their lives, many were wounded. Those fortunate enough to come through unscathed, also suffered due to the missed opportunities to train for careers. In addition, widows and children were left without support. We are desperately aware of the many ageing veterans and widows in need of financial assistance.”

Himself a Second World War vet, Mr Adams will be laying wreaths at the cenotaph at tomorrow’s Remembrance Day ceremony.

Mr Adams signed up to the Navy when he was just 18 years of age and soon got to be part of the action.

“It was my birthday present,” he recalls with a laugh. “I got on my pushbike from St George’s and rode to Hamilton to the ferry, went across to Dockyard and joined the Navy. I was working for Belco and the war was on — you couldn’t leave Bermuda and you couldn’t be called up either — you had to stay here but if you volunteered to go into service they couldn’t stop you. They had me working for nothing — one way to get away from it was join the Navy.

“Three days after I joined I was on a Navy ship — we left here to take a convoy to Halifax. I had been in the Sea Scouts so I knew a little bit about signalling so they signed me up as a signal man.

“All my duties were up on the wing of the bridge and I could see everything that was going on. I had a bird’s-eye view.”

On arrival, part of a seven ship convoy, he was soon ordered back to sea after a U-boat had been spotted by a plane 80 miles south of St John’s, Newfoundland.

“‘Locate, destroy and don’t come back ‘til you do!’ I’ll never forget the skipper telling us that that was the message he got. About three days later we caught up with them.”

They positioned themselves and destroyed the German submarine.

“I was close enough that I saw the debris come up.

“I was two and a half weeks over 18,” Mr Adams remembered. “It was scary. I just happened to be up where I could see everything, then we went across to England and did about four weeks training on an electrical course.”

Mr Adams recalled the jubilation at the end of the war by which time he had been stationed up in Edinburgh.

“I and a few others spent all evening and half the night on Princes Street in Edinburgh — for me that is the best city in the world. Everybody was celebrating.”

With the war’s end it took him two years to get demobilised and he returned to Bermuda in 1947 with his newly found wife Peggy, herself a war vet as a member of the Navy, Army, Air Force Institute.

Mr Adams’s story is just one of many and tomorrow helps generations old and new to appreciate the sacrifices that were made in our past to pave way for our future.

Secretary and trustee on the board of The Bermuda War Veteran’s Association Diana Andrew, the daughter of the late war veteran Peter Woolcock, said: “I would really encourage people to come out to the Veterans Day Parade.

“There are only a few veterans from the Second World War left who are able to march in the parade but it is very, very moving to see them.

“The crowds who line Front Street always burst into spontaneous applause as they march past, somehow very much aware that the world would be a much different place had it not been for these men who sacrificed so much.

“The men and women who fought in the Second World War have been aptly called ‘the greatest generation’.

“My father died three weeks after marching in the November 11 parade in 2014 and every year he found it very moving to witness the crowd’s appreciation as the veterans march passed.

“Also, I would encourage people to visit the War Memorial on the grounds of the Cabinet Building on Front Street — it is beautiful.”

The Remembrance Day parade begins at the flagpole on Front Street at 10.30am on Friday and a ceremony, including the laying of the reefs and a minute’s silence, will take place at the cenotaph begins at 10.50am.

Speaking on the difficulties faced by the charity, Ms Andrew added: “We need all the help we can get.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so through the Butterfield Bank. The Bermuda War Veterans Association’s account number with Butterfield is #20-006-060-092582-100.

War Vet: William Adams (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
War Vet: William Adams (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
War Vet: William Adams (Photograph by Akil Simmons)