The brethren of St. Luke’s Lodge No 6006, in the presence of the Assistant Provincial Grand Master Robert Wright and along with their guests, recently gathered to celebrate a special evening for William (Bill) Dumbell. The brethren of St. Luke’s wished to hold a special meeting to honour Bill, who was recently presented with the Legion d’Honneur by the French government for his involvement in the D-Day landings during the Second World War; with his presentation taking place for this award at the Liverpool Town Hall in November 2016.
The Government of France has recognised the selfless acts of heroism and determination displayed by the surviving veterans of the Normandy landings, and of the wider campaigns which helped to liberate France in 1944, by awarding these veterans with the Legion d’Honneur.
The evening started with the acting worshipful master, Ian Gee, warmly welcoming the brethren to the meeting before opening the lodge. Once the lodge was opened Ian again warmly welcomed Robert before offering the gavel which Robert graciously declined and while handing the gavel back Robert said: “I am very proud to be here on this special occasion.”
Ian then introduced Bill saying: “It is very special in the history of St. Luke’s that one of our brethren has received the Legion d’Honneur from the French Government for the part he played in the D-Day landings”, before handing over to Bill to recount his involvement during the war.
Bill started his recollection from when he had received his letter informing him that he was called up for service, aged 19 on the 29 January 1942, being told to report to the Harrington Barracks which were located in Formby. This is where the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment had their basic training barracks; with Bill spending 16 weeks in basic training before joining the 5th Battalion of the Kings Regiment.
Bill then recalled how he was then relocated down south for training for the landings, this training involved climbing over the side of a ship, down a rope into the landing craft and running onto the beach down the ramp.
Bill informed the brethren of the recollections and events he was involved in during the build-up and what he witnessed during the landings on the 6 June 1944. Bill at the time was a corporal, having 28 men under his command, with orders for the day to get his men safely on to Juno Beach, which he managed to do with no casualties.
Shortly after the landings Bill was transferred to the 7th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He recalled how he and his men were involved in the push through Northern France and the Ardennes, before he was seriously wounded. He spent another 18 months after this in the army before receiving a medical discharge with the rank of a sergeant. Bill finished his recollections by saying: “I am not a brave man, we lost many people who sacrificed their lives, I have been fortunate to have been able to have time with my family and friends, when others have not, I feel deeply indebted to receive this award and I feel deeply humbled to the people who never came back.”
Once Bill had finished telling the brethren of his recollections of his military service, Ian Gee thanked him for his talk and congratulated him for his honour, saying: “Bill, you are a very brave man and it’s been an honour to listen to your recollections.” Following which Bill was more than happy to answer a number of questions from the brethren.