17th Jan, 2017

Hero Bill got his medal before passing

Leamington Editorial 12th Jun, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A WAR hero from Leamington received the Legion d’Honneur medal from the French government just days before he died.

Leslie William Perks – affectionately known as Bill – passed away aged 91 in the care of Myton Hospice.

Born and raised in Leamington, Bill joined the Navy aged 17 and sailed on the HMS Walker escorting Arctic convoys

between Scotland and Russia during the Second World War.

A ship in the convoy was torpedoed during one of the journeys and less than half of the 116 people on board survived. Bill was part of the team which rescued survivors.

He was awarded 11 medals for his service in the war including the Russian Medal of Ushakov and the Arctic Star, and recently received the Legion d’Honneur, awarded by the French as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.

After the war he worked in excavation and then with Warwick-based Benford Ltd until retirement. Not one to sit still, Bill took up the role of caretaker at Kingsley School until 2009 and was a member of Leamington’s Royal Naval Association.

He will be remembered by his family as a ‘passionate and remarkable man’.

Bill leaves behind daughters Linda and Jane, a son Ian and five grandchildren Claire, Christopher, Sian, Adam and Hayley.

Linda told The Observer: “The care he received from the heart care team at Warwick Hospital and the Myton Hospice has been wonderful.

“He was determined to go to London to celebrate Russian Victory Day on May 9 and if it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t have been able to.”

And Jane added: “He decided going to London was his ‘bucket list’. And after we’d been he said ‘My bucket has got a hole in it.’ He had done what he wanted – he was a remarkable man with such spirit.

“His Legion of Honour medal arrived a few days before he passed. He was so happy when it did come though – he was in the Myton Hospice so we pinned it to his pajamas for him!”

He was also dedicated to Leamington and Warwick Sea Cadets – following his wife Betty’s death in 2013, the cadets named two of their boats ‘Bill’ and ‘Betty’.

His funeral will be held at the North Chapel, Oakley Wood at 1.45pm on June 21.