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Final respects paid to Albrighton's D-Day hero Bill

By Mat Growcott | News | Published:

Family and friends of a D-Day war hero gathered together in Albrighton to pay their final respects.

The funeral procession travelled from The Red House to St Joseph’s Church, with traffic stopped in both directions. Inset; Bill Bray.

More than 100 people turned out for the funeral of John William Bray, known as Bill, at St Joseph’s Church.

The 97-year-old was said to have lived a life full of service to his country and community.

Many people turned out to pay their respects as the funeral cortege passed

Bill was given the Légion d’Honneur, the highest award offered by France to non-nationals, at a special ceremony at RAF Cosford last year.

It was followed by a party in his honour on the streets of Albrighton, which he had called his home for several decades.

Part of A Squadron in the Staffordshire Yeomanry, Mr Bray, who was 17 when he signed up, was awarded the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur at a special ceremony at RAF Cosford two weeks ago.

The colours of the Staffordshire Yeomanry

The street celebration was said to be a once-in-a-lifetime party in Albrighton.

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Bill said it had been a fantastic day.

“I never expected anything like this,” he said at the time.

There he was reunited with his old pal Les Cherrington, from Shifnal, a fellow tank driver who he had lost touch with 70 years ago.

Bill Bray, left, and Leslie Cherrington met each other for the first time in 70 years at the Albrighton street party

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Les was also among the congregation at Bill’s funeral.

“I was very happy to have met him again,” he said. “It was a very nice service – he’d have been very proud.”

The pair had a long history and were close friends during the Second World War.

But despite living only a few miles apart for most of their lives, they lost touch.

Bill Bray in his wartime days

“We joined up together, we were in motors together, we were in the tanks together,” Les said. “We travelled to Palenstine and Syria together. We were never apart.

“He was a very good friend of mine. I was wounded and never saw him again until last year in Albrighton.”

The old pals fell back into their friendship within minutes of being reunited.

“He hadn’t altered – he’d aged, but he hadn’t altered,” Les said.

“To me he looked the same as he was as a young lad.”

Bill with daughter Heather, grandchildren and great-grandchildren

The congregation travelled from The Red House to St Joseph’s Church, with traffic stopped in both directions along Wellington.

As well as hymns, poems and psalms, The Last Post was played at Bill’s funeral.

His daughter, Heather Lenthall, spoke about his busy final year that created dozens of happy memories for the family.

Then Invictus by William Ernest Henley was read out.

Part of A Squadron in the Staffordshire Yeomanry, Mr Bray, who was 17 when he signed up, was awarded the Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur at a special ceremony at RAF Cosford in September. Bill was part of a team that destroyed seven enemy tanks and disabled two others.

It was his 24th birthday on June 6, 1944, the date of the famous landings.

He was a tank driver on Sword Beach and later took part in major campaigns, including being part of the Allied Forces’ crossing of the Rhine in Germany in 1945.

He was a grandfather of two and a great-grandfather of four.

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Reporter - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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