Or was he?
It seems Bill had had some kind of a run-in with a lorry which had pretty much destroyed his front nearside wheel, causing significant bodywork damage to the wheel arch and driver’s door.
A police patrol car came along and stopped to help. They could immediately see he was a senior citizen… a very senior citizen.
“How old are you, Bill?” they asked, after putting him in their patrol car.
“I’m 91,” said the old-timer, grinning. “I’ve got a spare wheel, if you could just put it on for me…”
“No way, sir”, explained the policeman, “the damage to your bodywork is dangerous. That car’s going no further, we’ll have to call a breakdown truck. Can we give you a lift anywhere?”
“Well, I’m off to catch the ferry to Holland,” said the old-timer hopefully.
“What are you going there for?” asked one policeman with incredulity.
“It’s a reunion for our paratrooper regiment, we fought at Arnhem in 1944. I’ve got to get there, they’ll be expecting me.”
The police were duly impressed.
“Can we contact any family members to come and help you?” they asked.
“Nah, they’re all dead, even my sons. I outlived ‘em all.”
These kindly policemen kept him in their car whilst they arranged for the breakdown vehicle, and since he seemed determined to continue his journey, asked if he wanted them to see if they could hire a car for him to continue his journey.
You’d think driving his own car across to the continent might have been enough of a challenge for the old boy. Not so.
“If you could get me a hire car I’d be really grateful,” Bill said.
As you might expect, several car hire companies declined the business when they found out the age of the prospective client, but eventually one company agreed a five week car hire for him. The police took him to the car hire company to complete the documentation, then helped unload numerous boxes from the boot of his own car into the hire car, checked to see he was capable of driving the new vehicle, and sent him on his way in time to catch his ferry.
What an incredible story, not only of the officers (West Yorkshire Police) going out of their way to help this old man, but also one of total dogged determination on Bill’s part.
Somehow he must have loaded all those boxes into his car by himself before setting off from home. No mean achievement at that age.
And after a brush with a lorry you might think he’d lose his nerve and decide to call it a day. No way.
You might also think that the prospect of driving a strange new car in the dark all the way to the ferry might have dampened his enthusiasm, not to mention continuing his journey on the right hand side of the road in a right hand drive car through Holland to his reunion venue.
But Bill wasn’t fazed in the least.
Nor did the police make any patronising assumptions about his abilities either.
It was a triumph of positive thinking on both sides, and was heart-warming to watch (Motorway Cops, BBC1, January 2014)
Bill reached his destination safely, and was duly reunited with his fellow paratroopers.
Sadly, Bill died whilst in Holland, though thankfully surrounded by his old comrades.