Bill Cork is a 98-year-old World War II veteran from Coolbellup but he was a teenager living in England when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. Bill desperately wanted to serve his country but his initial efforts to join the Army were rejected.

“I was only about 16 when the war broke out in 1939 but I went to volunteer for the services straight away. They turned me away at first, they didn’t want me. I tried again the following year and initially I was in the home guard, where we didn’t have rifles or even uniforms, before joining The Cheshire Regiment.”

Bill was briefly lured to the Royal Air Force and trained as an air gunner wireless operator before he was sent back to the army and joined the Lancashire Fusiliers based in Bury, Manchester. While with the fusiliers, Bill remembers the bombing of Liverpool and the terror of the air raids. “You’ve no idea what it is like when the enemy are dropping bombs on you.”

It was during one of these air raids that Bill suffered a head wound from shrapnel. “I split my head open but they stitched me up without any anaesthetic. To be honest, I was more concerned about getting blood on my uniform!”

After the fusiliers, Bill transferred to the Royal Artillery where he trained on 25 pounder and 50 pounder field guns and became a first class gunner in the 12th Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

As well as being a gunner, Bill was given Royal Military Police (RMP) duties and one day he escorted a prisoner to Glasgow, Scotland. Once Bill arrived in Scotland, he was given his next orders which were to join a troop ship leaving for North Africa as part of the British Army’s campaign in Egypt. During his time in Egypt, Bill recalls having to use chicken wire to imprison German soldiers as the army didn’t have enough facilities. 

“Luckily they stayed put and didn’t want to escape.”

After Egypt, Bill’s regiment crossed the Suez Canal before taking a rickety train across the Sinai Desert to Palestine. “We were in Palestine to keep the peace and for training. There were times when I had to go on patrols in an armoured car called a White Scout which had machine guns mounted on the back which is where I sat. It was terrifying and I can still hear the machine guns going bang, bang, bang.” After Palestine, Bill returned home to England to be demobilised from the Army.

Since 1961, Bill has lived in Australia building a life and a family with his wife Janet who sadly passed away in 2011. He’s an active member of the Returned Service League (RSL) and has been attending the RSL’s City of Cockburn Sub-Branch in Hamilton Hill since his retirement in his 60s. “I joined the RSL for the camaraderie,” explained Bill.

In honour of his service, Bill will play an important role in the sub-branch’s Anzac Day commemorations this year. Alongside other veterans, he’s been invited to a special lunch by the Mayor of Cockburn on Saturday and he will be in the land rovers leading the mid-morning parade on Sunday before taking his position in front of the Memorial Hall Monument for the ANZAC Day service.

For Bill, Anzac Day means a gathering of comrades to honour friendships and share memories. “I lost a lot of friends during the war, but I’ve made a lot of friends at the RSL and I really treasure them.”

From everyone at Amana Living, thank you for your service, Bill. It is an honour to support you to continue living independently at home.

Finally, thank you to all the men and women who have served, and those who continue to serve with the armed forces. We remember those who have died and the families left behind. Lest We Forget.

Image credit (above): RSL City of Cockburn sub-branch, Hamilton Hill

Image credit: Robert Long
Image credit: Robert Long