Arthur William Berill

My late father by Doreen Hansen

Arthur William Berrill (always called ’Bill’) was in the RAOC and served in northern France briefly in 1940, escaping from St Nazaire on one of the last boats to leave. He left again in December 1940 on a troopship for North Africa (Egypt) via Cape Town and Durban. I was born the next month on 13th January 1941.

There is a blank space in the middle of his army record during his stay in North Africa which was never explained other than: – ‘we learned to swim a very long way’. This period coincided with my mother not receiving any standard War Department marked and signed cards from him. However, she knew he was still alive and in Egypt when she received an uncensored letter from one of his former school friends in which he’d written: – ‘I saw Bill in Cairo last week and he looked fit and well’.

Sicily followed, then Italy (Salerno) attached to General Mark Clark’s staff as a liaison between UK and USA for munitions. He travelled as far as Florence with General Clark. In December 1944 he returned to UK, arriving home to Coventry on 18th December just in time for Christmas. It was our first meeting – 4 weeks before my 4th birthday. He completed his army service in Scotland from Perth and Broughty Ferry on the settlement of Polish service personnel wishing to remain in the UK.

He was eventually discharged from Hereford after a final RAOC task supervising the unloading at Glasgow of a ship carrying a cargo of unstable ammunition. Copies of several of his photographs from this time are now in the collection at the Imperial War Museum.