October 13, 2011
Media coverage is at the heart of any PR campaign.
Getting a story in the press, or as in this case, in a magazine, is not as difficult as you may imagine. You need to learn a few basics but most people can pick them up in a few hours .. and they last for life.
This particular story started when I was asked to raise the profile of a local school. The story we came up with encompassed a world war and a caretaker who had been thanked by two world leaders.
It showed the human side of the school and the grandfather figure that so many of the children looked up to.
To read the whole story see below ……..
Some of Warwickshire’s best kept secrets are its people. Some, like Leamington born Bill Perks, appear very ordinary when you first met them. Then you learn their hidden secrets…….
Born in Leamington Spa, where his father worked for Great Western Railways as a Wheeltapper, Bill Perks is a quiet man who has been honoured by a world leader.
More than 60 years have passed since Bill served on board HMS Walker as she sailed the raging Arctic seas between the North Atlantic and Russia’s Kola Inlet on convey duty and his contribution has recently been recognised.
After joining the Fire Service as a Dispatch Rider at 16 Bill then decided he should do his bit and join up. Rejected by the RAF as being too young and too small to join the Marines, at seventeen and a half he took himself off to Coventry to join the Navy. Going into the recruiting office as a civilian, Bill was given a short exam and a quick medical, and came out a seaman. He tells how his only thought was that his mother would kill him when she found out.
On completing his 12 weeks basic training at HMS Ganges, the naval shore establishment in Suffolk, Bill was posted to Chatham and soon joined HMS Walker. The Walker, built by William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton, had been built for the previous war. Launched on November 29th 1917 she had been converted for long range escort duties in 1943. Already showing signs of her age when Bill joined her he describes her as a being a “rust bucket”.
Life aboard HMS Walker was a distinct contrast to life in Leamington. The Walker, with Bill aboard, was stationed in Londonderry and made three trips to Gibraltar. Despite the hostile seas and risk of enemy submarines and warships Bill recalls that they travelled via the Azores where his memories are of bananas. Exotic fruit was a scarce commodity in wartime Britain and bananas were as good as currency in some quarters.
His next trip was not to a warm clime.
The clue to the next chapter in Bill’s time aboard HMS Walker can be gained by the fact they next called at Greenock and were issued cold weather gear. Russian conveys needed protecting and regardless of U boats, cold weather and Arctic seas the Walker was now on convey duty and bound for Russia.
The Walker had served in the cold northern waters previously and was no stranger to the cold. In 1941 she had depth charged the German submarine U99, which had then scuttled southeast of Iceland on March 17th. She had also, with HMS Vanoc, sunk U100 the same day after the submarine had been depth charged and rammed. For Bill, after the Azores, going north of the Arctic Circle is something he still recalls as if it were yesterday.
The storms were fierce but Bill makes light of the terrible conditions,
mentioning only that the men had to clear the upper decks of ice and recalling a large storm, which bent all the stanchions in the Mess Deck. Storms also took the life of an officer who was lost overboard.
Shipping losses were common; 126 allied ships were sunk in all. Surprisingly this represents just 6% of the ships of the Russian conveys and is a tribute to the men of the escort ships. Playing a part in rescuing survivors, Bill recalls how one occasion they picked up 47 Russian survivors who had been torpedoed.
War is never consistent and after sixteen trips to the Kola Inlet, in northern Russia, the Walker next saw action as part of the D Day landings. Bill was drafted to Malta and worked on small mine sweepers. They swept up the main North African coast from Alexandria to Tripoli, up the Adriatic to Venice and then into the Aegean Sea. In 1946 Bill went back to St Angelo in Malta and finally returned to England to be demobbed.
Where does the world leader fit into Bill’s story? In 1991 Bill was awarded a medal, by the former President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev, in recognition of the “40th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941 – 1945”.
A belated honour no doubt, but not the latest. In October 2006 Bill was awarded the Arctic Emblem by Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
The Arctic Emblem was specially commissioned to commemorate the heroic service of Merchant Seamen and members of the Armed Forces in the icy waters of the Arctic Region between 3 September 1939 and 8 May 1945.
It recognises that those who served in the Arctic regions were often subjected to especially dangerous circumstances including extreme weather conditions and determined resistance from German forces. Thousands of men died and 126 ships were sunk.
Bill was not alone in serving his country or receiving the Arctic Emblem and he pays tribute to the men he served with. So what makes Bill exceptional?
Approaching his 82nd birthday you would expect Bill to be living quietly; perhaps even in a retirement home reminiscing with old comrades. Not Bill. An exemplar of the people that work beyond retirement Bill is still working.
Employed by The Kingsley School in his home town of Leamington Spa he now works as a groundsman. “It helps pay for foreign holidays and my car,” says Bill.
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