SSAFA Branches Combine To Bring Bill Home

07 May 2020

Wilfred (Bill) Silvester recently celebrated his 96th Birthday.

Bill joined the Royal Navy in 1938 at the age of 15, attending naval training school for 18 months to learn about signals and communications, before serving on the heavy cruiser  HMS Berwick. This took him to the Arctic, defending and protecting the Russian Convoys in the Denmark Straits between Iceland and Greenland.

In January 1943 Bill and a friend volunteered for special service as communicators, not knowing that they would be taking part in the Normandy Landings a year later in 1944. After further training in Portsmouth, he was set to work as part of a small beach group, sending communications between Port-En-Bessin, near Arromanches and war ships off the Normandy coast.

From France, Bill was posted to Antwerp in Belgium before returning to Port-En-Bessin to marry local girl Simonne. Having been given two weeks leave, the couple spent their honeymoon in Paris.

In January 1946 Bil was posted to Singapore and Borneo for two and half years, followed by a period serving on HMS Belfast whilst it was in dry dock in London before being drafted to HMS Cygnet and finishing up back in the Arctic! Bill also spent time in Malta before finally being discharged from the Royal Navy in 1954.

Deciding that they might find a better life overseas, Bill and Simonne left Blighty in 1960 to settle in New Zealand with their two daughters. Simonne sadly passed away 18 years ago and so Bill returned to live in Normandy. It was only earlier this year that Bill asked SSAFA to help with his repatriation to England.

SSAFA's Branch Secretaries in France and Wiltshire coordinated Bill's return home. On a cold, wet February day Bill was met by Wiltshire Branch Secretary Sam Brown at Portsmouth ferry terminal and driven to Salisbury where he is now supported by Alabare and SSAFA's Salisbury Division.

Bill has settled in well at a local care home and attends the Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club each month to reminisce about his naval adventures.

We all wish Bill well in his new home, where our Salisbury Division Secretary Alex Reeve-Howarth visited him.

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