Obituary: Bill Lee, from North Walsham, veteran of the Battle of Anzio

Bill Lee. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Bill Lee. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Bill Lee was the last surviving Second World War veteran in the North Walsham branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) and his passing, the day before his 93rd birthday, marks the end of an era.

Bill Lee in his wartime days as a soldier. Picture: SUBMITTED

Bill Lee in his wartime days as a soldier. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

Mr Lee joined the RBL in 1947 and was a stalwart supporter of meetings and events where he was an imposing sight, in an immaculate jacket and beret, and wearing his medals.

Born in King's Cross, London, Mr Lee was conscripted into the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) in 1942.

His mother would not let him volunteer as she already had three sons in the army.

In 1944 he took part in the Battle of Anzio. The six-month coastal struggle eventually saw the Germans retreat and the allies were able to reach Rome, where Mr Lee spent his 21st birthday.

On Remembrance Day he would always recall those lost in the battle. The Germans, who had outnumbered the Allies, had shelled shipping in the harbour and town from a high vantage point and good friends of Mr Lee were among those killed in the attack.

A driver in the RASC, who took food, ammunition and petrol to troops, he earned the nickname 'Digger' because of his love of digging trenches.

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Mr Lee, who also served in Tunisia and Palestine, returned to Anzio twice after the war, once with his only child, son Ray, who lives with his family in North Walsham.

After the war Bill Lee joined the London Brick Company as a delivery driver.

He and his late wife Betty moved to North Walsham in 2004 to be near Ray but the whole family always kept their devoted allegiance to Arsenal Football Club.

Colin Chambers, chairman of North Walsham RBL, said Mr Lee had been very proud to attend the official unveiling of the poppy statue in the grounds of North Norfolk District Council's Cromer headquarters last summer.

'At the event Major General Sir William Cubitt (president of Norfolk RBL) asked him to relate some of his experiences during the Second World War and he was very flattered with that experience,' said Mr Chambers. 'He will be sadly missed by his fellow legionnaires.'

A funeral has already taken place.

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