A tribute to William Ernest Earl,  12th May 1915 – 11th March 2022.

A tribute to William Ernest Earl, 12th May 1915 – 11th March 2022.

Instead of re-posting the fifth part of, ‘the writing of Blood and Bandages’, today I pay tribute to my dear friend and co-author, Bill Earl, who passed away peacefully on 11th March 2022. He was two months shy of his 107th birthday.

Our friendship began when William was 94. By then, he had already lived a full life. In 1941, he had married his sweetheart, Mary Standen, and they had had two sons; he had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps from 1940-46, and he had worked for Boots the Chemist as a dispensing pharmacist for 33 years. In 1986, Mary had died from a heart defect. She had unknowingly passed it onto their sons, who tragically died within seven years of her death. In 1991, Bill had met his second wife, Judith Deak. They had married the following year and Bill inherited a step-daughter. This had heralded the start of the second chapter in Bill’s life, which had began brilliantly with a three-year world tour with the Jose Carreras production team. My appearance in 2010, marked the start of his third and final chapter.

By this time, Judith was commuting between her homes in Germany and Shoreham and Bill was living independently. Although he had his interests, classical music, flowers, Arsenal, and photography, he enjoyed company and eagerly seized the opportunity to tell his war story.

He loved our interviews so did not complain when things were re-done or took an age. He worked hard, checking each draft and making suggestions and corrections. He selflessly shared deep emotions and harrowing events for the sake of honesty and accuracy. Occasionally, we played hooky and at the top of his road turned right towards fish and chips, rather than left, towards a working lunch. We had fun during our seven years working on Blood and Bandages.

Bill was 101 when the book was published by Sabrestorm, and from that point on, he came into his own. For the next three years, he attended book talks, signings, interviews and appearances. He rose to each occasion and would not have dreamed of letting me down. It was tiring for him, but if he flagged, he’d say to himself, “C’mon old man, you can rest tomorrow.” He focussed completely on everyone he met and touched so many.

Bill and I were close, but there was one connection that transcended all, that with former or serving medical men. I first saw it at the Armed Forces Weekend when Bill met Stephen Searby, who had served with the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service, (QARNNS). There was an instant recognition between them and I saw Bill relax completely. It was as if he had returned to the comfort and familiarity of a beloved home.

He never forgot his comrades. Bill was 104 when we went to Italy to film for the Gary Lineker documentary. On our last day, we visited the ‘English’ cemetery. It was only accessible via a long flight of stairs but Bill was determined to climb them. At the top, he turned and saw row after row of headstones. I was stunned when he spontaneously burst into a furious triade at the loss of so many lives because of a ‘mad man.’  I had no idea that he still felt it so keenly.

I was blessed to have spent the last 12 years with Bill. I will remember his humour, generosity, kindness and courage but above all, his commitment. He embodied it, regardless of personal cost.

I’ve put together a collection of some of the moments along the way.  The accompliment is by one of Bill’s favourite composers.

There is also an on-line book of condolences if you would like to pay your respects to one of the last members of this exceptional generation.

Sleep well dear friend. Tomorrow has come and it’s time to rest.

J.S Bach – Violin concerto no.1 in A Minor BWV 1041 – II. Andante by Hilary Hahn and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchester with Jeffrey Kahane

6 Responses to A tribute to William Ernest Earl, 12th May 1915 – 11th March 2022.

  1. What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to an incredible man. Although I only met Bill on a couple of occasions it was an honour to have met him. There was an instant connection between former Servicemen and I shall never forget him. RIP until the final rendezvous Bill.

  2. It was such an immense pleasure to meet you both at War & Peace in 2018 and now, especially, as it was a chance to meet William in person. I was sat at the front to hear him recount some of his story with us and it was lovely to see those pictures again.

    I am also grateful for the final zoom call we had with you and his surprise ‘guest appearance’! Nothing ever seemed to be too much trouble for him.

    Sleep well William, a full life lived and remembered by those whose lives you touched.

  3. It is with much regret that Covid and my husband’s stage 3 colon cancer prevented me from meeting William in person. It was my intention to join Liz in June to visit him. sadly this was not to be. Nevertheless we enjoyed a lovely conversation on the phone, so not all was lost. I have a military background and my husband was an officer in the RAF, so it would have been wonderful to chew the fat with this wonderful man. Rest in peace William. We shall all remember you through Liz’s book. With love to you and Liz ❤️❤️

  4. A fine tribute to a fine man, I was lucky to meet William a couple of times when I interviewed you at War and Peace, the interviews and especially meeting William has made a lasting impression on me, and led me to discover more about my late Uncle David, who pretty much had the same journey through Italy as William, sadly Uncle David was killed in action in Aug 44.

    The power of Williams’s story is highlighted to me when I hear about the two tents, one for those that can live the other where there is no hope, I always find hearing this very emotional, and seeing the clips that you have shown of William describing his memories, demonstrates how awful some of these memories are. To relive those days must have been very hard for him, but I am so glad he was able to.

    It was clear there was a special bond between you and William, he will be greatly missed by all who met him.

    A very special man.
    Rest in Peace William

  5. A lovely heartfelt and poignant tribute, Liz. Gorgeous music to accompany such wonderful photos that tell the story of his last years and the wonderful achievement of having a book published.

  6. What a lovely, glowing tribute to a life well lived, an absolute hero and an incredible human being. Thanks for bringing Bill’s story to so many more people through Blood and Bandages and your recollections of your time with Bill. I’m very glad to have made a connection with Bill through your and his words. Thank you for all you did, Bill. RIP

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