Wellesley Hull, who is known as Bill and lives in Walker, served in World War II and in Burma with the Worcester Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Alpha Company.
He received his campaign medal from 1939-45 but was very disappointed when he applied to the Ministry of Defence for his war medals in 1997 and was informed that he left on the boat to India just six days too late to qualify for them.
Bill still proudly wears his regiment badge and, on a recent hospital visit, got into conversation with a paramedic who enquired about his service. Upon hearing about Bill’s disappointment over his war medals, the paramedic suggested he apply for an armed forces veterans’ badge, which is available to anyone who has previously served in the British military.
As chance would have it, Bill then received a copy of Newcastle City Council’s residents’ magazine, Citylife, which promoted the Armed Forces Outreach Service offered by Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) and Newcastle City Council.
Bill then contacted Steve Lambert, a senior outreach worker, and told him of his previous disappointment and desire for a veterans’ badge. Steve was happy to help and set about completing Bill’s application – but he also saw an opportunity for Bill to be more thoroughly recognised for his service, and contacted the Lord Mayor’s office to see whether a presentation could be arranged.
The Lord Mayor, Councillor Hazel Stephenson, was thrilled to oblige and visited Bill’s home to meet him and his son, and formally present him with his badge.
It was an emotional moment for all concerned, and meant a great deal to Bill. He said: “I’m absolutely over the moon with all of this. It was nice to talk to Steve because I knew he was listening and taking me seriously – people can dismiss you when you say you’re over 90 but I’ve always been active and sometimes I forget my age and fall over because I’m still so energetic!
“Being presented with the veterans’ badge has been marvellous, I can’t explain the feeling. It was fantastic to have the Lord Mayor here and it’s great to have my service recognised after the disappointing news about my WWII medals. I’m so pleased I spoke to Steve rather than applying directly – it would’ve just arrived through the post then and that would’ve been it, but now it’s a memory I’ll treasure.”
Bill has lived in his Walker home, which is managed by YHN, for over 25 years after retiring from his job as a school caretaker. His son, Malcolm, was also there for the presentation and they’re looking forward to adding the photos to Bill’s large collection of family portraits and regiment mementos.
Steve Lambert, who has worked for the Armed Forces Outreach Service since 2015, is a veteran himself, having served for several years overseas. Both he and Patrick Tracey, Civic Officer, who accompanied Lord Mayor, were wearing their own veterans’ badges at the presentation.
Steve said: “I was delighted to recognise a fellow veteran and we all so appreciated the Lord Mayor taking time out of her busy schedule to honour Bill in a way he very much deserves. There’s such fantastic camaraderie amongst former servicemen and women and I hope many more people will stop to talk to Bill about his service now he has his veterans’ badge.
“I’m privileged to meet many veterans of all ages in my job and I’m proud to support Newcastle’s commitment to the armed forces covenant.
“The outreach service has helped many deserving people since it was created in 2013, providing advice around housing options, financial issues, employment and training. I work closely with other YHN housing staff and this partnership is helping us to address the needs of veterans, leading to an efficient referral system and greater focus on appropriate services for the armed forces community.
“I would urge anyone with concerns about housing who has recently left the armed forces or who knows they will be soon, and plans to return to Newcastle, to contact me – I can provide assistance relating to accessing properties as well as a number of YHN’s support services.”
Steve is based in the YHN Housing Options Centre at Newcastle City Library, New Bridge Street West, on Level 1. He can also be reached on 0191 277 1297 / 07710 389 069 or via firstname.lastname@example.org