Securing our history for the future



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William (Bill) Spearing

This is story of William (Bill) Spearing who lived in Bawdrip for 50 years from 1968 as provided by his son Mark Spearing.

Dad was born and brought up in Bridgwater (Cornborough Place) ... The eldest of 2, his sister still lives in Bridgwater. Dad was married to my Mum (Beryl) for 50 years, she passed away 10 years ago.

Dad worked as a driver / mechanic for the local drainage board, digging the Huntspill (New Cut) river. At the age of 18 he was called up and joined the Coldstream Guards. After his basic training he was posted to the 5th Battalion CG (a war time regiment).

In June 1944 he arrived in France coming ashore around the 19th-23rd June. His Battalion saw heavy fighting around Carpiquet Airport (outside of Caen) and afterwards as part of "Operation Bluecoat"... On one day his battalion took heavy losses of over 300 out of 850 men and the battalion was never up to full strength again.

After the "break out" his battalion headed towards Paris and spent several days rounding up prisoners around the Somme. Dad's Battalion saw further action in Belgium and Holland and were part the Armoured Guards XXX Corps in the infamous "A bridge too far" battles, getting as far as Nijmegen, before the offensive was called off after the fall of the bridgehead at Arnhem.

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In the winter of 1944, resting and re-fitting in reserve, the Battalion was once again thrown into battle after the enemy had broken through in the Ardennes forest (Battle of the Bulge). His troop had to put back the tracks onto their carriers on Christmas day and went into battle without sufficient winter clothing and ammunition like many other battalions who were caught out by the enemy attack.

 At the surrender the battalion was at Cuxhaven in Northern Germany, Dad told me once how left behind to repair his carrier he almost drove into a column of enemy troops.... he gave them a wide birth and upon catching up with his battalion discovered that the war was over, and the enemy troops were fleeing west away from the Soviet armies!

On their way to Berlin, his battalion were part of the army who liberated Bergen Belsen concentration camp, something he'd kept quiet until seeing himself in hospital in France last year and being so frail remarked that he looked just like the prisoners he's help liberate.

 The 5th Battalion was disbanded in Berlin and dad was posted to the 1st Battn. He help guard Rudolph Hess at Spandau Prison and then on his return to London "Trooped the Colour" in 1947.

 Dad, like most of his kind rarely spoke of the war, always saying that he'd preferred to forget it and never wanted to return to Normandy... He always insisted he was just doing his bit and fought for his mates. Only occasionally would he share some of the lighter moments, like during an interview at the Tank Museum where he told their press officer jokingly that his shovel was his "best friend" as every time they stopped for more than 10 minutes they'd "dig in" to get below ground level as some protection from artillery (both the enemies and their own)! There are a few other stories too and a few not so light and in his later life we often witnessed his nightmares about one particular enemy soldier.

In 2016, dad was honoured by the French Government being made a Chevalier du legion d'honneur, France's highest Military award.....he never sought out this award, but he proudly carried the letter everywhere in his jacket pocket... He always wore a jacket and tie (a guardsman)!

Returning to Bridgwater he found work at British Cellophane / Bonded Fibre and worked for 40 years at the Bridgwater factory and 5 times at their factories in Canada. He bred and showed Canaries only giving up after mum passed away.

We moved to 18 New Road Bawdrip in 1968.

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Dad died on the 5th January 2018 in Bridgwater Hospital, the very last of his war time regiment. In honour the Coldstream Guards sent down a Bugler from London who played the "last post" at St Mary's Church in full Ceremonial Dress (Red Tunic, Black trousers and Bearskin)

"Nilus Secundus"

Mark Spearing

29th May 2018