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Daily grog and rum is the answer says Navy veteran Bill on 100th birthday

By Sue Austin | Market Drayton | News | Published:

Former Royal Navy sailor Bill Judd thought he would be celebrating his 100th birthday watching the rugby at the Royal British Legion in Market Drayton.

Second World War veteran Bill Judd pictured with family as he celebrates his 100th birthday at Market Drayton Royal British Legion

But when he walked in he was met by more than the club full of family and friends all ready to pay tribute to and an extraordinary centenarian - who still has the daily grog that he had in the war.

Gramps, as he is known by his 17 grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren, spent the Second World War in the Navy, surviving a German U-boat attack that sank his ship.

His role as a gunner for the Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships division meant escorting convoys of merchant ships which were prey to German submarines and it was while guarding a convoy travelling from Durban to Mauritius that his ship was hit by three torpedoes from a German submarine.

Bill managed to get to the lifeboats but 53 men died as the ship sank.

“We got in the lifeboats and the submarine came up alongside the boat I was in”

Bill moved to Shropshire three years ago

Then the men in the lifeboat were hailed by the German U-boat captain, who Bill later found out was Wolfgang Lüth, the second most deadly submarine commander of the Kriegsmarine.

“He said he was sorry for sinking the ship but said ‘it’s my job’. He was a very nice chap really. He offered medication for any cuts and bruises but that’s all he could do.”

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The lifeboat was rescued by a French ship and Bill went on to travel round the world on ships in the Navy.

After the war he returned home to his wife, Margaret and daughter, Ann in Cardiff, and the couple went on to have another daughter, Sue.

He lived in the Welsh capital until three years ago when he moved to Market Drayton to live with Sue.

More than 100 guests as his surprise birthday party included his South Walian family and former colleagues and neighbours who travelled to Shropshire as well as his new Drayton friends.

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Chairman of the town's Royal British Legion, Rob Bentley, said: "Bill comes to the club every Sunday for a pint and a bag of crisps. The younger members of the club are so full of respect for him as we all are - they love hearing his war tales."

The club's present to Bill was a special shirt printed with his name and the pledge of a free pint every week for a year.

Bill says he has reached his centenary thanks to the Naval tradition of grog - rum and water - every afternoon.

"I have a can of lager at 11am each morning as well," he said.

Great great grandson, 22-year-old Lewis Evans, said: "He is unbelievable. He has an incredible memory, better than mine, and his war stories are incredible, he never tells the same one twice."

Robert Evans, said: "I married into his family but he is my Grandad - his has been for the last 32 years. He is without doubt the best person I have ever met in my life."

The youngest of Bill's great-great grandchildren is 11-month-old Cadi.

Sue Austin

By Sue Austin
Chief Reporter

Chief reporter of the Oswestry/Mid Wales office. Keen to hear your news.

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