Tributes paid to veteran Bill ahead of town’s Great War commemorations

PUBLISHED: 08:08 08 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:13 08 November 2018

Bill Lofts. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Bill Lofts. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

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Saffron Walden veteran Bill Lofts, who served in the Second World War and saw action in the Battle of Kohima in Burma, has died at the age of 96 and his family have paid tribute to him ahead of commemorations for the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Bill Lofts, 92, left, read out the name of his uncle Petty Officer Stoker James Lofts, who died in the First World War.Bill Lofts, 92, left, read out the name of his uncle Petty Officer Stoker James Lofts, who died in the First World War.

One hundred years have passed since the end of the Great War and men from Saffron Walden, such as Bill and his uncle, James Lofts, will be remembered this Sunday.

Bill’s uncle, Petty Officer Stoker James Lofts, drowned in the North Sea at the age of 33 - his ship, the HMS Hawke, was torpedoed by a German submarine on October 15, 1914.

In 2014, the year which marked 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, Bill read his uncle’s name aloud at a ceremony in Saffron Walden.

Four years later, Bill died at Croft House Care Home, in Great Dunmow, on October 22, a place his family said he “absolutely loved”.

Before he moved into the care home last year, Bill lived in Birdbush Avenue and he was born in Radwinter Road – both in Saffron Walden.

Bill Lofts stands proudly at the Saffron Walden war memorial in 2014.Bill Lofts stands proudly at the Saffron Walden war memorial in 2014.

Speaking about her uncle, Ann Taylor said: “He was a veteran and spent his whole life as a military man and his main interest was anything to do with military. I’ve known him since I was two-years-old. He’s been like a second dad to me and as a little girl, he used to take me out to the farm at Littlebury Green and in his older years, Bill and Rita, his wife, used to visit us.

“About 25 years ago, he took me to Australia – when he asked me to go, I just sat there and laughed and said ‘don’t be silly’. We went to see his brother, Jack, and we were there for five weeks and we had the most amazing time.

“He liked his military dinners and I, my husband and my cousin, all used to go with him. The men used to laugh when we walked in and say ‘here’s Bill and his gang’.”

Ann said she used to take Bill to the Remembrance Day service at St Mary’s Church in Saffron Walden and said he always looked forward to it.

“He was all ready to go to the Remembrance Day in Great Dunmow but alas, it didn’t happen. He just loved the services – it meant everything to him as a military man,” Ann said.

Bill’s father, William Lofts, also served in the military. He was in the Suffolk Regiment and fought in First World War. Even Ann is a veteran - she enlisted in the RAF at 19 for two years before she got married.

“Bill’s father, our grandfather, was very strict with all of us – but he was also a very genuine man and adored us grandchildren, all 12 of us,” Ann said.

Bill was one of eight siblings and Jack, his brother, recently lost his wife, which devastated Bill.

“Bill and Jack have always been very close,” Anns said. “Jack’s wife died four weeks ago – she was 98. Bill worried so much when he found out she was sick. When I told Bill that she had died, he told me that he wasn’t very well – I think that was the start of the end - it was heartbreaking for him.”

But Ann said he lived a full life. He played bowls and he loved colouring books and a good word search. She said there was always a jigsaw puzzle on the go and he loved his family. Ann and her husband, who live in Haverhill, used to go visit him and have fish and chips.

Noreen Chapman, manager at Croft House Care Home in Great Dunmow, said: “He was the most gracious man and very proud of his military history. He enjoyed his time at Croft House very much. He joined in everything. He was just a lovely man. He would often sit and talk about his history with other residents. He was very proud of serving his country.”

Bill’s funeral was held at the United Reformed Church in Saffron Walden yesterday (Wednesday).

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