Thursday, 30 January 2014

Memories of a Chelsea Pensioner: William Titchmarsh the Bren-Gunner

In memory of the late William Titchmarsh 1921 - 2013

"I was a Bren-Gunner, I liked the Bren Gun. There was one chap in a bit of hand to hand fighting and I got him down, and I had my Bren Gun with me, and I hit him with this Bren Gun, I couldn’t fire it because he was on the ground you see, and he kept on calling for his mother, and that has kept with me. 

But there is one thing that remains in my memory until I die – that’s my little mate Willy Williams. He was a music teacher, tall – we were 19, 20, 21 years of age. No good as a soldier. They put him with me, you see. I had said, “Excuse me Sir you know that Willy Williams, he’s got a terrible squint, no disrespect sir but he’s a music teacher, he’s classed for music”, “Oh well he said, you look after him and I’ll tell the Sergeant”. And he kept with me all along. We were in an attack, a whole brigade attack. We were all ready to go forward of course and our guns opened up and it was hell, absolute hell, we were in a big ditch, you know. Well, the chap on my right was killed, and I don’t know what happened to my mate Willy on the left there, he disappeared. I stood up and there wasn’t a scratch on me, and I saw this fella there, he had a hole nearly the size of the top of his back. I took him to the doctor and I shouted, and he said “He’s still alive Sir”, “Still alive?” I said. And then I saw this fella - I’ve never seen anybody so covered in bandages, his legs were covered up, his chest, his arms, his head, “Are you alright mate?” I said, “Do you want a fag?” and it was Willy.

After the war, I went to his house and his wife, a young lady, took me up to the bedroom and he was sitting on the bed on his backside. His right arm was off, his left leg was off and when I went downstairs, the nurse was there to dress him; he had harnesses all around him. I like to think that she didn’t say it, but she told me not to call again. I don’t know why she said it; she was so distressed with me walking around. I wake up at night thinking about it.

I was with some very good people [in the Army] and I stayed with them, I refused promotion because I wanted to stay with these people, and they looked up to me. I was in hospital and came out and got to my unit, and then got a truck back to my division and then back to my battalion and then back to my company and the boys were glad to see me, because we were brothers together."

William shaking hands with HRH Prince Henry of Wales at Founders Day 2011

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