The Cottingley community turned out in force on Saturday (9 April 2016) to celebrate the life of one of its longest living residents, 97 year old William (Bill) Cutler.
The event, at Cottingley Community Centre, took the form of a 1940s style tea dance. The centre was decked out in union jack bunting and archive newspapers from the war were on show. Many people had dressed in 1940s style with tea being served by a squad of ‘Land Girls’.
Bill said the party was “Marvellous. It’s unbelievable how they found old friends to come, I never expected anything like this. All they said was wear your medals!”
The celebration was triggered by Bill receiving France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur, for his role on D-Day 1944 – the allied invasion of Europe via the Normandy beaches.
Bill was a Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Largs. This was no ordinary ship, in fact it was a captured French Banana boat that had been converted to be used as the Combined Operations Headquarters. It served this function at all the major allied sea-borne invasions of the Second World War.
Bill Cutler served on HMS Largs through the invasions of North Africa in 1942; Sicily in 1943, and Burma in 1945. On D-day the ship, with generals and admirals on board, led the invasion force that landed at Sword Beach. Bill was a bridge lookout and helped to avert catastrophe when he spotted a torpedo launched at the ship.
After the war Bill moved to a new pre-fab house at Cottingley Hall in 1947. The houses were built quickly to tackle the post war housing shortage and were only designed to last ten years. Bill reluctantly left his in 1972 to move into a new house on the estate, where he’s been ever since.
Christine Robinson-Perkins, one of the organisers, said:
“We wanted to do this for Bill because he’s such a nice quiet guy and he did something extraordinary in the war.”
Bill says the community on the estate is not what it used to be, but he has terrific neighbours who look after him and he is full of admiration for Christine and the work she is doing at the community centre.