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Double celebrations for Charles – VJ Day newspaper fame and landmark 100th birthday party

Double celebrations for Charles  – VJ Day newspaper fame and landmark 100th birthday party

We have had good reason to proudly celebrate one of our Priors Mead family members; resident Charles Williams.  Not only has Charles celebrated his 100th birthday honoured with a surprise socially distanced visit by the Mayor of Reigate but he has also been featured in two regional newspapers recognising his contributions in Burma as part of the VJ Day celebrations last week. 

Burma Star MedalIn the interviews Charles talks about his experience serving as a Sergeant Major in the 3rd Battalion of the Nigerian regiment of the West African Corps; one of around 30 officers responsible for a regiment of 1000 men. Having served for 18 months in Burmese jungles as part of the operations to expel the Japanese in WW2 Charles was honoured with the Burma Star for his services.

23 year-old Charles  had left university and with a handful of friends volunteered to join the army where his first posting overseas was to Nigeria.  Having completed intensive training he travelled via Lagos and Bombay followed by an arduous five day rail journey across India to reach Calcutta and then into Burma.

 

100 birthday

 

Constantly on the move through mosquito-riddled jungle, Charles recalls his experience and his memories of the US supplies saying he and his comrades often preferred to go hungry such was their dislike of the ‘unusual’ American food rations. He says that he was luckier than most as the Japanese had experienced a series of military setbacks by the time he arrived and were already starting their retreat making their way to Thailand.

 

100 birthday

 

Around 5,000 African troops were deployed to help remove the Japanese from their occupation of Burma including a battalion from Ghana and Sierra Leone.  Charles recalls, “The Africans were excellent soldiers, they were very brave and I do think the Japanese were scared of them.  I was glad that most of our time was spent forcing their retreat rather than fighting. Over the three years it had been a brutal war, fighting in difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions and under the threat of disease.  I count myself as one of the lucky ones, I was very proud to be awarded the Burma Star – it has a nice ribbon.”

Charles is too modest by far and we feel extremely privileged to have him here at Priors Mead – our very own hero, and an important reminder of what so many of his generation went through and the sacrifices that they made.  We have much to be thankful for.

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