'He was our hero' – tributes to Lymington Second World War veteran Bill Matthews
TRIBUTES have been paid to Bill Matthews – a Lymington veteran who served in the Second World War – after his death at the age of 95.
Bill enjoyed a long career of public service, working in the local fire service for 16 years and the ambulance for 24 years. He also represented the latter at the service of Remembrance held at the Cenotaph, and his wartime service took him out to south east Asia.
The veteran was very active within the Royal British Legion – he was believed to be the oldest member of the Lymington branch – and on behalf of local charities, organisations and churches.
His daughter Jan told the A&T: “He was our hero. He was always there for us and he was patient and understanding. We as a family are very proud of his many years of public service and the way he gave back to people and the community.”
Ardent Portsmouth FC fan Bill had lived in the same house in Lymington for the past 63 years. He and his late wife Irene celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2004.
Bill hit the headlines during the first lockdown last year when neighbours and schoolchildren sang to him for his birthday on the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
When news of his death emerged, many who knew Bill for his service and support of commemorations took to Facebook to offer kind words.
A fellow veteran said Bill was a “remarkable” person who was “humbled and dignified”, adding: “[Bill was] a very, very fine soldier and a great human being.
“A stalwart of the Lymington armed forces and veterans breakfast club from day one, he will be hugely missed by his family and all who knew him.”
As reported in the A&T, when Bill turned 95 last May a special celebration was held online to comply with social distancing guidelines, part-hosted on YouTube from Pennington Junior School by the Rev. Rachel Noel, vicar at St Mark’s Church.
Bill enjoyed singalongs, readings and prayers and children from Pennington infants and junior schools took part alongside the town mayor, councillors and members of the Royal British Legion.
Jan added: “We as a family have been overwhelmed by all he best wishes and condolences sent to us. It just really, really shows how much he was appreciated and well-loved in the local area.”
Bill leaves behind daughter Jan and Wendy, grandchildren Paul, Kelly, Emma and Lisa and great grandchildren Nicholas, Ryan, Jack, Callum, Amy and Olivia.
He is also survived by two sisters, Mollie and Joan.