Tributes to Sheffield World War Two hero Bill Hartley

Bill Hartley pictured in 2014
Bill Hartley pictured in 2014
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A Sheffield World War Two hero who fought in some of the conflict’s bloodiest battles has died aged 94.

Bill Hartley, of Woodhouse, had served in Egypt, Tunisia and France – in the D-Day landings – by the time he was just 21 or, according to the Army’s records, 22.

Bill pictured near the end of the war in 1945

Bill pictured near the end of the war in 1945

Born and raised on Penistone Road in Hillsborough, Bill enlisted for the TA in 1939 aged 16.

The entry age was 17 but thanks to a letter ‘from his mum’ – which he had written himself – Bill was soon among the ranks.

By 1941 he was in the Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and set sail from a wintry Liverpool on a six-week voyage to the scorching Middle East.

Battle-hardened Bill was already a seasoned veteran by the time D-Day came around in 1944. He had already fought the Nazis and their Italian allies in Egypt at the battle of El Alamein in 1942.

Bill with fellow D-Day veteran Charlie Hill chat to French police officers on a visit to Normandy in 2014

Bill with fellow D-Day veteran Charlie Hill chat to French police officers on a visit to Normandy in 2014

Around 14,000 men lost their lives but the victory for the British troops and the Allies marked a crucial turning point in the war and halted the Nazis advance further into Africa.

Bill said he had to get by on a pint of water a day.

He made it back to Sheffield in December 1943 – just in time to give his sister away at her Christmas wedding in Malin Bridge before heading off to train for the daring D-Day landings.

Bill, a retired salesman, father of two and grandfather of three, described himself as ‘battle-hardened’ by the time he but added ‘it never crossed my mind to think I’d ‘done enough’. I always wanted to be a solider, that was it, kill or be killed.”

Bill as a 16-year-old in the TA

Bill as a 16-year-old in the TA

In Normandy, Bill was a driver and radio operator responsible for telegrams and other communications.

The brave veteran – who described himself as ‘battle-hardened’ by 1944 – had to drive his lorry through shallow waters as shell fire pounded out from Nazis positions on the second day

Gordon Drabble, president of the Normandy Veterans Association in Sheffield, said: “He had a long war did Bill. I don’t think he had any qualms about coming back over the start line as they said after his time in Africa.

“He was treasurer of the association for many years and was always keen to get involved and stay active within the group. I have always admired his service to the association. He was a great chap.

Bill in 1940

Bill in 1940

“I have fond memories of Bill going on various trips with him back to France, especially the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, it was a terrific event.”

Graham Askham, secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association based in Sheffield, said: “Everyone will miss Bill. He was great chap and an all-round nice man.

“With his time in North Africa and France, God knows what horrors he must have seen and then to just get on with his life after the war ended.”

Bill, of Killamarsh, and other Normandy veterans, were awarded France’s highest military honour the Légion d’honneur earlier this year – 72 years after his heroism.

He died on Thursday after a spell in hospital.

Bill (far-right) received France's highest military medal the Legion d'Honneur earlier this year

Bill (far-right) received France's highest military medal the Legion d'Honneur earlier this year

Bill (far-right) received France's highest military medal the Legion d'Honneur earlier this year

Bill (far-right) received France's highest military medal the Legion d'Honneur earlier this year