HUNGERFORD has bade farewell to a celebrated Second World War veteran at a special service of thanksgiving for his life.
In a distinguished military career, William Bailey was one of the first, and youngest, allied soldiers to liberate the Nazi death camp at Belsen and was honoured by France for his part in its liberation.
On Thursday, April 5, a memorial and thanksgiving service was held at St Lawrence Church, Hungerford.
Mr Bailey, affectionately known as Bill or Billy by his family, died peacefully on March 15, aged 93.
He spent his last six weeks less than a mile from where he was born almost a century ago, at Hungerford Care Home, where he was lovingly cared for by staff, and visited daily by family and friends.
Mr Bailey was born on December 20, 1924, in a small cottage at Radley Bottom, Hungerford Newtown, and was one of five siblings.
Later, the family moved to Hungerford and when Mr Bailey was only 18 years old he joined the Pioneer Corps to support the war efforts during the Second World War.
They fought through France, Belgium and Holland.
Mr Bailey married Edna in 1952 and they had three children – Alan, Douglas and Sheila.
He was a country gentleman, and enjoyed spending his time beating and walking his dogs.
Local people enjoyed Mr Bailey’s homemade sloe gin and both he and his well-trained spaniels were highly thought of at Hungerford Cricket Club, where the dogs would fetch lost balls, saving many man hours.
In 2016, Mr Bailey was awarded the Legion d’Honneur by the French government for his role in the liberation of France in the Second World War.
The award, dating back to 1802, was established by Napoleon Bonaparte for acts of bravery and is the highest decoration France can bestow.
In heartfelt speeches, two of Mr Bailey’s granddaughters shared stories of their memories of his vibrant life.
Mr Bailey’s youngest child, Sheila, said afterwards: “We had a beautiful celebration of my father’s life, and even the sun stayed shining for us.”
Mr Bailey was laid to rest beside his wife Edna, and just across from his son Douglas.
After the service a wake was held at The Bear Hotel, Hungerford.