Guard of honour at funeral of Walsall war hero

Dozens of people turned out to pay their respects at the funeral of a Walsall war hero who died aged 93.

The funeral of war hero William Garbett
The funeral of war hero William Garbett

William Charles Garbett died on January 15 – hours after officially being awarded a commendation from the President of France.

He was too unwell to attend the special event and it was announced later that day he had died after suffering from pneumonia.

William Garbett

Mr Garbett, or Bill as he was known to his family and friends, joined the Navy at 17-years-old and went through the training for the D-Day invasion and was one of the first to set foot on Sword Beach in 1944.

His funeral service was held at St John's Church, in Scarborough Road, on February 6, followed by a service at Heath Lane Cemetery, in Stone Cross. There was a Royal Navy guard of honour at the service.

Mr Garbett's coffin – which was draped in the Union Jack flag – travelled in a hearse adorned with flowers, followed by family cars.

The funeral of war hero William Garbett

The service was led by Reverend Bonnie Beckett and hymns included Abide with Me and Jerusalem. While music during the service included Autumn Leaves, We'll Meet Again and Over the Hills and Far Away.

A tribute from his wife, Iris, on the order of service, read: "Bill was a wonderful husband, uncle and friend.

"A D Day hero whose exploits will never be forgotten.

"Above all, he was my best friend and I will miss him forever. All my love, Iris xxx."

Flowers at the funeral of war hero William Garbett

Mr Garbett was born in Palfrey on August 13, 1925. He left school at the age of 14 and had his first job at GCE, before being called up for national service in the Royal Navy. After serving in the navy he worked as a general manager at Partridge's for 30 years before retiring at the age of 50.

He met Iris in 1949 and they married in August 1951. His hobbies included growing flowers in his greenhouse, collecting stamps, model railways, reading and listening to music.

In a personal reflection, read by Mr Garbett's niece's husband Steve Jasper, told of how Bill's role in the war was to build a sandbag castle and signal to other troops when it was ok to land. The service heard his close friend, Leo Maguire Rafferty, who looked after Bill, took the first step on French soil but was shot dead by a sniper and floated out to sea

Flowers at the funeral of war hero William Garbett

He said: "We took Bill back to Normandy on two occasions, once in 2005 and once in 2014 – a few weeks after the 70th anniversary celebrations. We took him to the exact spot on the beach where he landed.

"Bill made sure his friend Leo's life was not in vain. On the second occasion we visited Bill proudly wore his medals and it was like being with a celebrity.

"It goes without saying, the family are immensely proud of him. He was a wonderful husband, uncle, friend and a hero for what he did all those years ago."

Mr Garbett's niece, Julie Jasper, said: "My uncle was a great person and a legend in his own lifetime. We have taken him back to Sword Beach twice and found the exact spot where he landed on D-Day.

"He was a amazing man, godfather of the family and the oldest member of the family. He was the matriarch of the family and he will be missed so much."

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