Armistice Day will be especially poignant for a 99-year-old Scarborough man, who lost a close friend in wartime.
Bill Tutty, a resident at MHA Priceholme care home in Givendale Road, is remembering his late friend Sgt. Leslie Watkins this Armistice Day.
As young children, Bill and Leslie became close friends before joining the military in the 1930s. Bill still remembers his army number today, 1888154.
During World War II, Bill was based at the School of Military Engineers on the banks of the Suez Canal in Egypt where he attained the rank of Sergeant, whilst Leslie was an ‘Ack Ack Gunner’ (anti-aircraft warfare) in Tobruk, Libya with the Lincolnshire Regiment.
Sadly, after the Battle of Tobruk, Leslie was captured as a prisoner of war and was transported to Greece by a German ship. According to reports at the time, the Germans had informed the British that the ship was transporting prisoners, however they were not believed and the ship was tragically destroyed by the RAF with a loss of all life.
“When I heard about the bombing, I thought it was a terrible way to die. The British pilot must have felt so bad about what had happened. I will always remember Leslie as a really bright young man”, Bill recalls.
At the time of his passing, Leslie Watkins had attained the rank of Sergeant in the Lincolnshire Regiment.
MHA Priceholme is decorated in more than 1,300 hand-knitted poppies to display on the run-up to Armistice Day.
To commemorate the contributions of military and civilian servicemen and women, the care home’s residents, staff and volunteers set their sights on creating a beautiful Remembrance display to recognise and mark Remembrance Sunday, which this year falls on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.
Issuing a call-out through the home’s social media channels, Priceholme set an ambitious target of seeking the local community’s assistance in knitting and crocheting 500 poppies for the display. However, thanks to an astonishing reaction from the people of Scarborough and beyond, the home has so far received over 1,300 hand-knitted poppies to form part of their growing display.
Manager Anna Gillon said: “We thought we were being ambitious asking for 500 knitted poppies, so you can imagine our surprise and delight when we received in excess of 1,300 poppies. They have really brought our display to life!
“It’s been a huge team effort. Residents themselves, their friends and relatives, staff and even people in and around Scarborough with no link to the home whatsoever have come together to support this wonderful project, which has caused a number of tears to be shed as our residents, colleagues and visitors remember loved ones lost.”
One resident said: “When you stand and look at the display you feel calm and at peace while, at the same time, overwhelmed with emotions. It’s a fantastic display the home has put up for us all. Huge thanks to everyone involved.”
The ‘Fallen Soldier’ cut-out, which stands in front of the main wall of poppies, was created by the Priceholme’s maintenance worker Mike Wardman. He said: “I’m thrilled with how the finished display looks. Many visitors to the home, including health professionals, have commented how wonderful it is and how the ‘Fallen Soldier’ really brings the whole display to life.”
The residents have decided that the Priceholme Remembrance display appeal should now become an annual contribution to grow the display until it covers every communal area within the home.